McPherson — The Bullpups beat the Arkansas City Bulldogs by a score of 26-6 and advanced to their third consecutive state-semifinals. The game tonight was a rematch of last year’s sectional championship, which the Bullpups won 62-28. There weren’t as many fireworks in this year’s game as it was more of a defensive struggle.
It was a brisk 40 degrees tonight when the Bulldogs received the opening kick. The Bullpups held Ark City to a three and out on their first possession of the game. On the ensuing drive,which began at the Bulldogs 49, Jakob Feil was fed early and often, and he picked up 40 quick yards. This was a positive early sign as Goddard held him to eight yards last week. The Bullpups drive stalled at the 9, and Drew Schrader drilled a 26-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the first. The Bulldogs’ next possession also ended after three plays, Cody Stufflebean sacked freshman QB Gabe Welch on 3rd and ten. The Bullpups received a poor Bulldogs punt on their own 49 and got right back to business. They drove down to the Bulldogs 19 mainly on the legs of Jakob Feil. Their drive again stalled, and Schrader came on and hit a 36 yarder, his career-long, which gave the Bullpups a 6-0 lead with 1:58 left in the first.
The Bulldog defense pressured the young Arkansas City quarterback all night. Ryder Peterson, Cody Stufflebean, and Mason Thrash were a constant presence in the Bulldog backfield. The Bulldogs, however, were able to establish some momentum in the second quarter. This was quickly quelled by an outstanding play from Jayden Dukes, who batted a Caleb Welch pass into the waiting arms of Brycen Labertew. The Bullpups were unable to take advantage of the turnover, as their offense went three and out. The defense held tough, however, as on the next drive they caused a turnover on downs as Welch couldn’t hit his receiver over the middle.
The two teams traded punts for most of the second quarter until the Bullpups were able to engineer a drive late in the first half. The Bullpups were deep in Bulldog territory with 20 seconds left in the half before penalties forced them to kick another field goal, which Schrader drilled. The score was 9-0 at the half, but it could’ve been much higher if not for a stingy Bulldog defense. Jakob Feil had the bulk of McPherson’s offense at the half-way mark, with 15 carries for 61 yards.
The Bullpups received the opening kick of the first half but their offense went three and out and punted the ball back to the Bulldogs. Brycen Labertew made his second outstanding interception of the game on the ensuing Bulldog possession. He gave the Bullpups the ball back and they were finally able to take advantage of an Ark City turnover on a Cody Stufflebean touchdown catch. The play he scored on was ingeniously designed, Kaleb Hoppes faked a pitch to Feil and hit Hoppes on a 20-yard seam route to make the score 16-0 in favor of McPherson with 9:58 left in the third quarter. Stufflebean and Ryder Peterson snuffed out the Bulldogs’ next drive as the two defensive linemen combined for a sack. The Bullpups drove into Bulldog territory once again but were stopped at the 8-yard line. Schrader kicked a 25-yard field goal that tied the school record for made field goals in a game with four. The score was 19-0 in favor of McPherson with 1:07 to go in the third.
Caleb Welch was the author of a prolonged Bulldog drive that started at the Bulldog’s own 14-yard line and ended up in the Bullpups’ endzone. He hit a coterie of Bulldogs receivers en route to the endzone. Welch’s one-yard quarterback sneak made the game 19-6 after a failed two-point conversion. Ark City was called for a penalty on the ensuing onside kick, but on the rekick, they were able to recover. They had the ball on their own 45-yard line with 6:52 to go in the fourth. The vaunted Bullpups defense was able to force a turnover on downs, in no small part due to Stufflebean and Peterson’s second combined sack of the game which forced a fourth and nineteen.
Once the Bullpups got the ball back they had no plans to give it back and they drove down into Bulldog territory. The Bulldog defense made a stand on a third and six, however, two of their players took leave of their senses and committed personal fouls on the same play. One of these fouls resulted in the ejection of Bulldog defensive lineman Gannon Metzinger. The mental mistake gave the Bullpups a first down at the Ark City 7. Jakob Feil was able to punch the ball in after two effective runs, Feil’s 13th touchdown of the season. This made the score 26-6 McPherson after a successful Schrader extra point. The Bulldogs committed another personal foul after the score which resulted in the ejection of defensive-lineman Taviahn Mack. An overall great performance by the Bulldog defense was overshadowed by the careless play of some of their players in the final minutes. The Bullpups defense held on and didn’t let the Bulldogs score on the final drive of the game.
The Bullpups ran the ball 35 times for 129 yards, Jakob Feil finished with 96 yards and a touchdown. Kaleb Hoppes completed 11 out of 23 passes for 109 yards. Ark City QB Caleb Welch was 19 for 31 for 226 yards but two interceptions to Brycen Labertew. Arkansas City ran the ball 27 times for 52 yards. The Bullpups only accrued two penalties for 10 yards, Arkansas City had two penalties in the first half, but nine in the second half for a total of 101 yards.
Coach Jace Pavlovich had this to say after the game about Drew Schrader’s kicking performance, “It takes pressure off of us…when you have a guy out there that’s automatic…He’s a college kicker.” Pavlovich went on to praise the stellar game from Brycen Labertew, he said of his defense, “They were stellar across the board…We put our dogs on the defensive side of the ball and let them play. Coach Harlan and his staff do a great job. Cody Stufflebean and Mason Thrash get a lot of the credit, and rightly so, but we’ve got 11 guys that are all pretty dang good.”. Pavlovich said of the overall performance of the team, “I couldn’t be more proud of the toughness and the grit we showed as a team. We handled ourselves with class, and that’s something that we’ve worked on.”
The Bullpups will take on Andover Central next Friday night in the State-Semifinals game. This is sure to be the toughest game of the Bullpups season to date, as Andover Central comes in with a 10-1 record. The Bullpups will put their 11-0 record on the line next week, as well as a chance to compete in the State Championship game.