Fresh off their second consecutive state semifinals appearance, the McPherson Bullpups faced adversity, falling being 10-0.
All of a sudden, the winning recipe came together.
McPherson scored 22 unanswered points, senior quarterback Kaleb Hoppes racked up 279 yards of total offense, and the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A held on to defeat Salina South 29-17 at Salina Stadium to open the 2019 season.
The opening half featured two stellar defenses. Neither offense could get going as the two teams combined for 128 yards. South’s defense and the leg of punter Kam Xaysongkam pinned back McPherson numerous occasions. That allowed the Cougars to primarily start in Bullpup territory.
South (0-1) cashed in with a wide receiver screen pass from junior quarterback Terran Galloway to senior Jace Varela, who sprinted to the far pylon for a 24-yard score with 2:55 left in the first. Following a McPherson fumble, Salina South pushed the pigskin deep inside Bullpup territory, successfully attaining first downs on fourth-down conversions. The drive ended up stalling with the Cougars settling for a 36-yard field goal from senior Eric Rincon, giving the Cougars a 10-0 advantage with 8:12 remaining in the half.
Salina South appeared to have the ball for the remainder of the second quarter until a tipped pass by Galloway ended up being intercepted by McPherson sophomore Jayden Dukes, who returned the ball to Cougar territory with under two minutes to play. McPherson (1-0) capitalized with Hoppes finding tight end Cody Stufflebean for a 25-yard TD with 18 seconds left. The PAT was blocked, making the score 10-6 at halftime.
That final touchdown fired up the Bullpups as they rattled off another points. Hoppes orchestrated an opening drive in the second half that lasted just 1:37, ending with an eight-yard scamper by the signal caller. Pinned back at their own one-yard line, Hoppes hit a streaking receiver in Aaron Powell for a 99-yard strike. Kicker Drew Schrader followed with a 27-yard field goal make to balloon the lead to 22-10 with 3:10 to go in the third.
The Cougars clawed back to within five as Galloway threw a pass to sophomore tailback Brandt Cox on a 4th and 5 from the nine. Cox took the screen delivery and sniffed out the end zone with 7:15 remaining in the game. A little over three minutes later, Hoppes put the finishing touches on the game with a one-yard plunge with four minutes to go.
Hoppes threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 73 yards and two more scores. McPherson has its home opener next week against Winfield.
South’s Galloway was 18 of 25 passing for 146 yards, two scores and an interception. Salina South heads west to Dodge City. Pregame at 6:45 on Y93.7.