A drop from 5A to 4A sounds better than a jump from 4A to 5A, but not with a schedule like that of the McPherson Bullpups. Even with a tough set of games ahead, Tom Young does not fret over losing a key leader. Instead, he plans to continue to use the athleticism of his players and create another standout quarterback.
Coach: Tom Young (entering 42nd year as head coach 320-101; entering 7th year as head coach at McPherson)
2011 Recap: 7-3 overall, 5-0 in league, 2-1 in district, lost to Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the state regional game 32-31
2012 District: Abilene, Chapman, Smoky Valley
Returning Starters: Offense 8, Defense 5
Returning Lettermen: 28
Offense: The McPherson offense will suffer a loss in 2012 as star quarterback Tyler Matthews ventures down to Texas to play for the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University. With 2,843 passing yards last season, Matthews wrapped up his career after earning another offensive most valuable player award for the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division II. The Bullpups are not happy to see Matthews go, but his absence is not creating too many nerves for head coach Tom Young.
Young is known for replacing star athletes with an equally if not more talented individual. He has seen many of his most talented players graduate, including stellar quarterback Joel Piper. Piper was a huge loss to the Bullpups, but was replaced by Matthews who became an even more productive offensive leader. Young seems to have a knack for developing good quarterbacks and for the Bullpups this season, he may have dealt his cards right again as he has said it could be senior Marcus Houghton or sophomore Kyler Kinnamon stepping in as head of the McPherson offense.
Houghton comes into his senior season as a second team all-league wide receiver with 667 receiving yards. His counterpart, Kinnamon, is a young sophomore but already has varsity experience with 45 receiving yards in 4 catches. The Bullpups will not only adjust to a new leader on the field, but also to a new list of league opponents, and a new class.
“Even though we are dropping to Class 4A, it does not mean we face an easier schedule,” said Coach Young. “In fact, this could be our toughest schedule yet. For games three and four, we play Rose Hill and Buhler.”
The Bullpups will incorporate a mix of running and passing plays as they use their hustle as well as their size to their advantage. Senior tailback Austin O’Bannon will return with his speediness after earning all-league honors last year for rushing an average of 135.6 yards per game. Senior fullback Dalton Clark will play in the backfield and senior Alex Bahr will work with senior Alex Boswell and either Houghton or Kinnamon as a wide receiver.
Offensive linemen including second team all-league seniors Collin French and Jaelon Barnes will either keep tight in I formation or pull the opposing team’s defense apart using a spread offense.
Defense: The defensive game could make or break the Bullpups’ chances to a 4A title game. In 2011 the defense gave up an average of 26.9 points per game, while shutting out only one team and giving up big points in games against Emporia, Salina South, and Gardner-Edgerton.
McPherson will keep it simple on defense this season by implementing the basic 4-4 defense. Seniors Travis Steenson and Aaron Elsasser were on the all-league second team as linebackers, and they make up two of the five returning starters on defense.
This season the Bullpups need to create a bigger gap in the points scored on offense versus the points they allow on defense. They were in close games in 2011, and in order to give their new quarterback a leg up, they need to minimize the nail biter finishes by shut down opposing offenses.
Odds and Ends: This season will be one of many adjustments for the Bullpups of McPherson, and unfortunately time is running out before the first game day.
Thirteen returning starters including junior Garret Larson, junior Collin Harvey, senior Keaton Sorenson, senior James Mowery, and senior Tenner Hamilton will be looked to for leadership in competitive league and non-league play against tough groups like Buhler, Hays, and Abilene.
That is not to say that the rest of the team will not be of great importance. The lack of overall depth is one problem that can push Coach Tom Young to the edge of his seat.
“Developing backup support will be a top priority for us early,” said Coach Young.