A year ago, the Salina South Cougars trailed the McPherson Bullpups 13-12 at halftime. The Bullpups took control of the game in the third quarter.
That frame was the deciding factor again.
A pair of interceptions, a big play, and a turnover on downs was the third-quarter recipe that did in the Cougars in their 24-14 loss to the Bullpups Friday night at Salina Stadium. Salina South has lost five straight in the series and the Cougars haven’t won a season opener since 2014.
After throwing for 284 yards in his first game as a starter, junior quarterback Weston Fries ran into a McPherson defense that was ready. Fries was picked off twice in the opening frame, the last one setting up McPherson at the Cougar 44. Two plays later, McPherson was in the end zone on a 26-yard pass from Hunter Alvord to Sam Becker with 1:47 left in the quarter.
McPherson drove deep again, but had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Blaise Hoover with 7:47 left before intermission. South finally broke free late in the half after a Garrett Aills interception that gave the Cougars the ball with 54 seconds left. The Cougars needed just 43 seconds to score as Fries rifled in an eight-yard pass to senior Laken Webb with 11 seconds remaining, cutting the deficit to 10-7 at the break.
South’s defense had an excellent start to the second half, forcing a punt. However, the string of unfortunate plays started with a Fries passed that was picked off by Luke Schroeder, who returned the ball to the goal line for a pick six.
The Cougars didn’t look phased, driving all the way inside the five. South even scored, but the touchdown was called back because of a hold. Fries then was picked off by Collin Pearson in the end zone. McPherson hit South over the top with an 83-yard bomb by Alvord to Tucker Pelnar with 3:06 to go in the third.
South again looked poised to answer with 30-plus yard plays, one being a catch by Aills to set up first and goal from he one. The next play, Fries had to scramble to the far sideline and ran out of bounds for a loss of 11 yards. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs to end the frame.
The Cougars did fight hard until the end. Fries recorded his second touchdown with a 72-yard hookup with senior Carter Copes with 6:37 to play. Fries turned to Copes again after a McPherson punt. Copes had the ball in his hands at the two, but bobbled the pass that was intercepted at the one to essentially end the game.
Fries threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, but had five interceptions. Alvord had 227 passing yards, two scores, and a pair of interceptions.
Salina South will head to Maize South next Friday. Kickoff at 7 pm on Y93.7 and ksal.com.