McPHERSON, Kan.—Going into the regional round of the 4A playoffs, the west half of the bracket looks like a gauntlet, with four of the top five teams in the state still alive. All eight of the teams left in the west are legitimate contenders, including McPherson and Andale.
But after a 42-36 McPherson win, the Bullpups survive while the Indians’ season comes to an end.
McPherson got a trio of monster performances against Andale in a characteristic balanced offense, and the Bullpups needed every bit. Keaton Sorenson caught 7 passes for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns, providing a big play threat with quarterback Kyler Kinnamon who threw for 304 yards in the game. Austin O’Bannon carried the ball 27 times for 194 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
After McPherson scored first to open the game, Andale showed it was ready for a fight. On its first play from scrimmage, Hunter Knoblauch took a handoff, found a hole, and exploded by the McPherson defense for a 54-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion gave the Indians an 8-7 lead.
Without giving McPherson time to breathe, Knoblauch was back in the end zone with another huge run, this one for 36 yards. After a failed 2-point conversion, Andale extended the lead to 14-7.
But McPherson head coach Tom Young has been around, and the Bullpups’ defense made the adjustment to shut down the Andale running back and got back to big plays offensively in the second quarter.
Kinnamon scored from 28 yards out to tie the game at 14-14. A bomb from Kinnamon to Marcus Houghton who made a finger-tip catch set up a 24-yard touchdown run from O’Bannon. And another long pass from Kinnamon, this one to Sorenson, set up Sorenson on a 9-yard touchdown catch to make it 28-14 at the half.
With the game on the brink of getting out of control for the Indians, Andale dialed up quarterback Jared Smarsh on a bootleg. Smarsh rolled out and found Knoblauch wide open for a 64-yard touchdown pass to get back in the game, cutting the McPherson lead to 28-22 late in the third quarter. But McPherson, answered immediately with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Kinnamon to Sorenson.
Andale stayed in it with a touchdown pass from Smarsh to Ben Seiler to open the fourth quarter. McPherson answered with an 8-yard touchdown run from O’Bannon to make it 42-28.
McPherson appeared to have the game in the bag after recovering a fumbled Andale snap with around three minutes left. But the Indians intercepted a pass to get the ball right back. Andale scored to make it interesting at 42-36. McPherson recovered the ball on the kickoff, and was able to run out the clock for the win.
The Bullpups will travel to Top-Ranked Holton in the sectional round of the playoffs after the Wildcats beat No. 2 Wichita Collegiate 28-0.
Whoever survives the No. 1 Holton, No. 3 McPherson contest will face the winner of No. 4 Mulvane and Buhler for the right to play for a state title.