Throughout the night, McPherson's Keaton Sorenson tortured the Mulvane secondary with highlight-reel receptions.
His second touchdown of the night was a one-handed tip-toe up the left sideline, baffling his defender along the way for a 45-yard score. Later, he skied over the back of a corner to snatch the ball, then turned around and exploded for the end zone on a 60-yard touchdown.
Sorenson was good – but he did not have the catch of the night.
With eight seconds to go, Sorenson was looking to the heavens for someone else to finish off a pesky Mulvane offense.
“I pray. I pray we get it,” Sorenson said. “I pray we get it and end the game.”
On a chilly evening where Sorenson was prepared to be warmed by the glow of the spotlight, Tanner Hamilton stole the show. A leaping interception of a pass from Mulvane quarterback Ty Redington with one second remaining sealed the 35-30 win for the Bullpups. Sorenson routinely described Hamilton's effort as “awesome.”
“I was just watching the quarterback, reading him. This is what we've been working for all summer. I just went up and got it,” Hamilton said. “I don't think it's hit me yet. I'm going to bask in it once we get in the locker room.”
Mulvane and McPherson each scored five touchdowns, but the game was decided by the Wildcats' inability to convert extra points. With Redington nursing a sore ankle, Mulvane was without its normal placekicker. The Wildcats went for two points five times in the contest, and were denied five times.
“This is on me tonight and our special teams,” said Dave Fennewald, Mulvane head coach. “That was on me to come up with some different two-point strategies. I'll take full blame there.”
Sorenson hauled in all three of his touchdowns in the first half. Mulvane stayed close, as Redington connected with Alex Evans and Nolan Smith for touchdown passes, cutting the halftime deficit to 21-12.
In the third quarter, Marcus Houghton – who tossed three scores to Sorenson in the first half – stepped out to wide receiver, bringing in a 48-yard touchdown pass from Kyler Kinnamon to put the Bullpups ahead 28-12.
Kinnamon's recent shoulder injury forced him to shift from quarterbacak to receiver, but as his health returns, McPherson can now implement confusing offensive shifts.
“If one of them is hurt, the other can go right in,” Sorenson said. “They're about even in skill. We look good. We do.”
Evans caught his second touchdown pass to bring McPherson's advantage down to 28-18. One play later, Kinnamon answered, scampering 66 yards for a touchdown. Still fighting, Mulvane responded on its next play with Cole Williams zig-zagging 65 yards for pay dirt.
Late in the third, Williams pounded out 22 yards for another six points, bringing the score to 35-30.
Mulvane's defense bent but did not break late in the contest, giving the offense the ball with 2:17 left and 71 yards to go. Redington helped march the Wildcats within 22 yards of the end zone, but Hamilton cut the life support with his pick.
“They're a good team. We both made plays,” Evans said. “We just ran out of time.”
McPherson (5-1) clinched the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division III title with the win.
Both teams now look ahead to district play and a shot at the postseason.
“We have to come out and play every game as hard as we can, just like we did at the beginning of the season,” Hamilton said. “Same mentality, just starting over. We have to get these wins first.”
Fennewald wants the Wildcats (5-1) to soak in the sting of defeat and use it for a bigger target.
“Last year the state champions had only one loss, so why can't it be us?” Evans said.