McPherson must replace top talent to stay atop AVCTL-III
With back-to-back state semifinal appearances in the Class 4A bracket, McPherson has been among the top team in the AVCTL-III and the state in recent years. The Bullpups lost a tremendous graduating class, and that could be enough to standings in a league where just two teams finished at or above .500 in 2018.
The Bullpups went 10-2 in 2017 and did even better in 2018 with an 11-1 record. The Bullpups neared a spot in the 4A finals with a 15-14 loss to Goddard in a home sub-state game. Fifth-year coach Jace Pavlovich (34-10) must replace his top skill players to duplicate any success this year.
Last year’s offense started with quarterback Kyler Hoppes, who just missed 2,000 passing yards in 2017 and surpassed 2,600 yards last fall with 36 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Junior Dylan Rinker played behind Hoppes, completing 26 of 46 pass attempts for 183 yards.
The team’s top-three receivers from 2018 have also graduated. Gabe Hoover was the main target with 76 receptions for 1,315 yards and 20 touchdowns. He came up just 523 yards of the 11-man state record for receiving yards in a season. Talyn Huff and Chandler Wiard combined for another 862 yards on 56 receptions. Five-foot-ten junior Aaron Powell returns after catching nine balls for 229 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Jace Kinnamon was one of the top rushers in Kansas last year as a senior with 1,794 yards on 206 attempts. Junior Neill Raymond ran the ball 44 times for 225 yards, and senior Jakob Feil was a big-play back with 115 yards and three scores on just five attempts.
The Bullpup defense was stout last year despite just three starters back from 2017. The Pups allowed just one touchdown or fewer in each of their seven games and allowed 15 or more points just twice in 12 games. Last year’s top-two tacklers are back in senior Mason Thrash and junior Brycen Labertew, both at middle linebacker. Senior Cody Stufflebean paced the defense with seven sacks last fall, and Feil grabbed a team-high five interceptions.
Crusader fans are hoping the down cycle is complete for the 2019 season. After winning at least nine games in each of the 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons, Buhler dropped to 7-3 in 2017 and 5-5 last fall. Even with a losing record last fall, the Crusaders blanked Winfield 25-0 in the first round of the playoffs and gave Wellington a battle at 14-7 in round two.
Senior Cade Miller will likely see time under center with the graduation of Colton Goans. Senior Samuel Cruz returns to the backfield.
A key to success will be putting a powerful defense back on the field. In 2017 the Crusaders allowed more than 15 points just twice and held five opponents to one touchdown or fewer. The 2018 squad allowed 21 or more points in five of 10 contests.
Throw out non-league opponents and the non-league opponents and Winfield had a good 2018 season. The Vikings lost to league-foe Buhler to close out the regular season, then ended the year with a 25-0 playoff loss to the Crusaders to finish the year at 3-6. All three wins came against league opponents.
Still, the 3-6 mark was a step up. Winfield won just one game in 2016 and two games in 2017. This year’s squad is helped by the return of senior quarterback K.C. Crandall. Crandall will have to find some new targets as Jacob Weber, Mark Clifford, Landon Davis, and Brock Rolo have all graduated. Six-foot-three junior Clinton Hall, Jr. and junior Trent Beckwith will likely pick up that slack.
Jack Mull, one of the top hurdlers in Kansas, has graduated as the lead running back, leaving senior Steele Morin and junior Gage Heger to pick up some additional carries.
After three-straight playoff bids from 2014-16, the Orioles took a step backward with a 5-4 showing in 2017 and a 3-6 record in 2018. Last year’s team was relatively young and that leaves plenty of optimism heading into the 2019 campaign.
Senior Jayden Wilson and junior Xander Roberts each spent time under center last year. Wilson threw for more than 300 yards and Roberts completed just a handful of passes. The duo did combine for 10 interceptions against just two touchdowns.
The big threat out of the backfield will be junior Ryan Andrews. Listed at 6-0, 180 pounds, Andrews was a workhorse last year with 150-plus carries for some 500 yards. Andrews is also a capable receiver with 13 receptions for 134 yards in eight games. Six-foot-two senior Justin Clausing led the team in receiving last year and will be joined by sophomore Alex Bennett in 2019.
Call the two wins progress. The Thunderbirds won just one game in 2016 and went winless in 2017. That made last year’s 2-7 record all the more impressive, even if Rose Hill and Independence – the teams that lost to Circle – combined to go just 1-17 last season. The Rose Hill win ended a 19-game losing streak.
Third-year coach Logan Clothier does return senior quarterback Luke Myers. At 6-1, 195 pounds, Myers is bigger than the average quarterback. He threw for 623 yards with 11 interceptions and two touchdowns last season. With a little help, Myers can build on a net 28 rushing yards on 104 carries.
Corbin Ingrim has graduated after leading the T-Birds with 428 yards on the ground last fall. One hundred-plus yard backs Easton Barrier and Jared Greenwood have also graduated, meaning a complete rebuild in the Circle backfield.
At 5-8, senior Solomon Bowen returns as the team’s leading receiver last season. Kadyn Smith, the only other player with more than 100 receiving yards, has graduated.
Despite the record, the defense held offenses largely in check in 2018. Prior to late games against McPherson and Goddard, the Thundebirds held all seven opponents under 36 points and three of those opponents scored three touchdowns or fewer. Ingrim leaves some big shoes to fill with 119 tackles a year ago, and the top-three tacklers have all graduated.
The Wildcats defeated Circle for a league win in 2018 but that was about it for an El Dorado squad that finished the season at 2-7. Some key losses make growth all the more difficult in 2019.
Gone is Cody Wittenberg at quarterback, a capable thrower and runner. And even bigger loss out of the backfield is Braden Morgan, who rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries in one of the two wins last season against Independence.
Senior Jackson Schell is back as one of last year’s leading runners. He rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown in the win over Independence. Senior Kai Wernli picked up limited carries out of the backfield last season. At middle linebacker, Wernli also returns to a defense that was hit hard by graduation.