The 2019 McPherson Bullpups team lost to Andover Central 7-0 in the Class 4A State Semifinals. However, many Bullpups’ fans will not remember this in years to come. What they will remember is a hardened, dominant, explosive, and talented nucleus of young men that played magnificent football in the autumnal months of 2019. A group of young men who blocked out distractions and focused on the task at hand, even when opposing teams made this difficult. This roster of players and group of coaches accomplished so much in their run together. Their accomplishments, not their eventual shortcoming, is what will be remembered.
Across 12 games this team scored 439 points, and their defense only allowed 99. That is an amazing statistic, and in a big-picture way distills the dominance that this team displayed. This team averaged 36.5 points per game and only gave up an average of 8.5. It doesn’t take a sophisticated statistical analysis to come to the conclusion that this team represented the cardinal virtue of good football; scoring and not getting scored on.
The Bullpups only allowed four opponents to score in the double digits, the highest point total of any of their opponents this season was 17. Even in the only loss on their record, their defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown. The official star of this defense, Cody Stufflebean (Sr, Future Kansas State Wildcat), was a huge reason why. In nine games Stufflebean recorded 46 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. However, reducing this dominant, cohesive unit to one player would belie the cumulative effort of the entire defense. Brycen Labertew (Jr) was a roving, ball-hawking menace at the linebacker position. He was equally as useful in coverage as he was effective at rushing the quarterback and stuffing opponent’s runs. Jonah Clark (Sr), Mason Thrash (Sr), and Ryder Peterson (Sr) formed a potent triumvirate that harassed QB’s into bad decisions. The backline of this defense was just as fearsome as the guys in the trenches. Hoppes collected four interceptions this year, Labertew caught three, Jayton Alexander (Jr) had two, and standout Jayden Dukes (So) also caught two. The combination of all of these elements made for tough sledding for opponent’s offenses.
This football team was led by QB Kaleb Hoppes (Sr) who had an outstanding season as signal-caller. Hoppes threw for 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Hoppes led an explosive passing attack that exposed weak defenses. Hoppes was also a danger in the ground attack, he rushed for 621 yards and 11 touchdowns. The heart and soul of the Bullpup rushing attack, however, was oftentimes the smallest guy on the field, Jakob Feil (Sr). Feil rushed for 899 yards, averaging nearly six yards a carry and found paydirt 13 times. Feil also was a danger in the return game as he had an unforgettable punt return for a touchdown where he spun the entire Augusta Orioles’ defense out of their shoes. Feil also racked up 220 yards on 22 receptions and caught two touchdowns. The Bullpups’ most explosive receiver this year was undoubtedly Aaron Powell (Jr). Powell collected 60 catches this season and had nearly 750 yards to go with six touchdowns. Powell was also an absolute headache for opposing coaches to deal with in the return game as he returned two kicks back for touchdowns. Trey Buckbee’s (So) play this season was so good that you often forgot he was a sophomore. Buckbee had 29 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Cody Stufflebean only played in eight games this season where he caught a pass, but he made the most of each game. In total, he hauled in 13 catches this season and six, (almost 50%!!!) were touchdowns. Bullpup fans can look forward to him filling the same role for K-State in years to come.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Drew Schrader’s outstanding performance for the team this season. Schrader, of course, pulled double duty as an excellent soccer play this season. Schrader had one of the most terrific games I’ve ever witnessed a high-school kicker have in the Sectional-Championship against Ark-City. Schrader drilled four field goals, which tied a McPherson High record for one game, including a 36-yarder. Schrader won them that game that night and provided great kicking all season.
After giving Coach Jace Pavlovich some time to ruminate on the season I reached out to him and asked him some questions about this season for the ‘Pups and beyond:
1. The last game of the season was an impossibly tough defensive struggle, anyone who watched knows that. This was an incredibly high-scoring team during the regular season and two rounds of the playoffs, what will it take to translate that into the later rounds next year?
The defenses that we played in the playoffs were all incredibly good. If you look at it, none of them were giving up many points all year. If we want to take the next step we have to be able to run the football in obvious running situations. The passing game has bailed us out on numerous occasions, but we have to be able to punch the ball in when we are in the red zone.
2. Who was a member of the team who showed a high degree of growth, on-field or off in the past year?