MCPHERSON, Kan. - For the second time in three years, the Goddard Lions are back in the state title game. While it was a potent offense that got them there in 2016, the defense was paramount in getting the Lions back in 2018, coming up with stop after stop in pitching a second half shutout.
Let's start with the close of the first half. McPherson's Kyler Hoppes found Chandler Wiard for a 49 yard pass and catch to give the Bullpups a 14-7 lead. The Pups proceeded to force a Goddard punt to take the game into half with all the momentum in McPherson's favor.
But that momentum quickly evaporated.
On their first possession of the second half, the Bullpups snapped a ball through the back of the endzone for a safety, making the score 14-9.
Later in the quarter, McPherson again came through with a deep pass play, with Aaron Powell setting the Pups up at the 5. But then the Goddard defense began to steal the show.
The Lions forced a 4th down, then blocked the McPherson field goal attempt to keep it at a 5 point game.
After a bad punt, McPherson again would take it into the redzone but once more the defense came up with a huge stop, this time what looked like all 11 guys standing Jace Kinnamon up on 4th and 1 to take over the ball. But this time, the offense got to work.
Stringing together a few first downs, the Mac defense was on the ropes before forcing a fourth down at midfield. They chose to go for it, and it paid off, with Jared Mocaby hitting Blake Mitchell on the deep ball to get Goddard deep in Mac territory.
They turned to the ground game to finish it out, with Ben Bannister finishing out the drive from a yard out to give Goddard the 15-14 lead. But they failed on the 2 point try, keeping the spread at just a point.
That point is all the Lion defense would need. McPherson again drove it down inside the 10, but they fumbled, and Goddard pounced on top of it.
After a Lion punt, Mac was left with 1:!5 to drive 51 yards and no timeouts. Hoppes got McPherson deep into Goddard territory, but fittingly, the game ended with a defensive play. Kaeden Hoefer got the tip, and Gentry Cole dove to intercept the pass in the endzone to seal the game.
The win gets the Lions to the state championship game in their first year since moving down to class 4A, and first year under new head coach Tommy Beason. But for them to take the title, they'll have to do what hasn't been done in five years: defeat Bishop Miege in the playoffs. The Stags are back in the title game after defeating Basehor-Linwood 46-7 Friday night.