McPherson's rhyme scheme philosophy was drilled into the minds of the offense all week, and the marching orders were followed wholeheartedly.
“Ground and pound,” said Bullpup quarterback Kyler Kinnamon. “That's all we were thinking.”
Kinnamon had the easy part of the night – execute passes to get McPherson in scoring position, then hand it over to Austin O'Bannon out of the backfield.
O'Bannon, the team workhorse, obliged.
“We just came in the game trying to go with a powerhouse offense – just trying to drive it in there,” O'Bannon said. “When coach calls a play and calls my number, I just put my shoulder down and do what I have to do to get in there.”
O'Bannon popped in two rushing touchdowns to lead McPherson to a 33-15 victory over Rose Hill.
His first came on the opening drive. After Kinnamon's arm knifed through the Rocket defense, the Bullpups faced a third-and-goal from the one. O'Bannon rumbled through the defensive line, putting McPherson ahead 7-0.
The power running game opened up the aerial assault for the Bullpups. After adding a safety and field goal in the second quarter, McPherson needed 64 yards to tack on one more score before halftime.
Kinnamon hit direct strikes to Keaton Sorenson (12 yards), Tanner Hamilton (29) and Marcus Houhtgon (20) to swiftly give McPherson four shots at paydirt from three yards out. O'Bannon only needed three tries, punching in a run off the left side to give the Bullpups a comfortable 19-0 cushion at the half.
“He's short, to the ground and really strong. He can run just about anybody over,” Kinnamon said of O'Bannon's running style.
Rose Hill flashed signs of life in the second half when Jordan Reed grabbed a tipped ball for an interception. Five plays later, Garrett Forsberg trotted in for a 1-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 19-7 with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
“We came out and battled the second half, but the first half, we didn't take advantage of our opportunities. We need to do that,” said Rose Hill Head Coach Greg Slade.
McPherson responded by methodically marching the field. The Bullpups answered when Kinnamon connected with Hamilton in stride for a 14-yard touchdown pass and a 26-7 edge. On McPherson's next drive, Kinnamon darted 30 yards for a touchdown on the ground and an insurmountable 33-7 lead.
Colton Mays added a late touchdown and Bret Waddell caught a two-point conversion to bring the Rockets within 18 with less than two minutes to go.
The loss dropped the Rockets, the defending 4A state champs, to 0-3. Rose Hill was missing do-everything star Jonny Pearson for the game, but Slade would not use it as an excuse.
“We have to keep working and get better this week, and take care of ourselves. Our opponents are important, be we have to take care of our stuff first,” Slade said. “We will. We're continuing to get better.”
McPherson (2-1) now preps for another tough test next Friday, this time against Buhler. After a loss to Hays a week prior, the Bullpups are beaming with confidence.
“I feel great. We lost to a good team last week,” O'Bannon said. “We're on our way to the playoffs, and we'll hopefully win it out from here.”