Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it was appropriately cold Friday night when the McPherson Bullpups avenged last postseason’s loss with a 14-8 win over the Goddard Lions. The Bullpups earned their tenth win and move on into the quarterfinals of the 4A State tournament despite their lowest-scoring game of the season and their smallest margin of victory. I’d venture to guess that this win, 340 days after their loss to the Lions in the State semifinals last year, was the sweetest of the season so far.
The game started in nightmare fashion as Senior RB Jakob Feil fumbled a punt return after a Goddard three and out. The Bullpups managed to get the ball back after a defensive stand, and then Senior QB Kaleb Hoppes fumbled on their first offensive play of the game. The Bullpups defense was stout, however, they were on the field nearly the entire quarter. After an athletic interception by Junior Jayton Alexander, the Bullpups took over again but couldn’t capitalize. Both offenses struggled mightily in the first quarter, the Bullpups didn’t record a first down until a 25-yard catch by Feil on a wheel-route late in the first quarter. Hoppes threaded a thirty-yard pass on a vertical-route to Senior TE/DE Cody Stufflebean on the next play. Bullpups led 7-0 after one.
The second quarter is when things began to get mighty interesting. The Bullpups running game was ineffective when they ran straight ahead with Feil, but showed promise when Hoppes called his own number. The passing game bore fruit when Hoppes wasn’t running for his life. Hoppes escaped pressure in the second quarter and launched a ball downfield that was intercepted at the Bulldogs 29. It basically functioned as an arm punt. Hoppes also threw an interception on the next Bulldogs offensive possession, it would be his last mistake of the game.
Sr MLB Mason Thrash and Stufflebean harried the Goddard Lions the entire game. Thrash had at least ten tackles, with five of them, probably, accounting for lost yardage. Stufflebean was in the Goddard backfield the entire night. After a stellar Bullpups defensive possession, (in which both of the players mentioned above played big roles), the Bullpups got the ball back with 3:36 left in the second quarter. They summarily drove down the field, aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Lions. Hoppes hit Stufflebean in the left corner of the endzone on a toe-tap six-yard touchdown catch. The Lions drove deep into McPherson territory at the end of the first half. The Bullpups managed to turn Goddard over deep in their own territory. The score was 14-0 Bullpups at the half. Goddard recorded eight penalties in the first half.
The third-quarter was a defensive struggle for both teams. No score occurred until about halfway through the quarter with the Bullpups pinned deep. The Bullpups were forced to punt after a three and out on their own three-yard line. The punt was blocked out of the back of the endzone for a safety making the score 14-2. The Goddard special teams would strike again later in the quarter as QB Kaleb Hoppes had his “Pasta Punt” partially blocked and returned for a touchdown by Dalton Carraway to make the score 14-8 after a missed extra point. The Bullpups would threaten later in the third quarter deep in Goddard territory but a Kaleb Hoppes run came just short of the endzone on a fourth down.
Hoppes’ runs were the only offense for the majority of the second half. The Bullpup defense was stout, especially so on the last Goddard offensive possession. Stufflebean pressured Goddard QB Kaeden Hoefer on every dropback for the last four downs of Goddard football in 2019. On first down, Stufflebean sacked him, on second, he forced an incompletion, on third, he nearly sacked Hoefer, and on fourth, Stufflebean hit Hoefer while he threw and the ball landed in the arms of Hoppes. Ball Game.
The Bullpups offense struggled in the second-half as Kaleb Hoppes basically played on one leg. Hoppes threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 114 more. He showed a lot of grit and determination to even make it through this game; it’s fitting that he caught the game-sealing interception. Cody Stufflebean showed why Kansas State bet big on him. He was a terror defensively and he caught two athletic touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. Before this game, Stufflebean had five catches for 75 yards this season; in this game alone he had six grabs for 103 yards.
The Bullpups move on to the State Quarterfinals and will host the Arkansas City Bulldogs next Friday at 7 p.m.