By William for

MCPHERSON – While many say it should be the matchup for the state championship, it is not, as the McPherson High football team which is ranked number one in Class 4A will be at home for their state semi-final battle with Class 4A number two ranked Andover Central on Friday evening. Opening kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.

The Bullpups and Jaguars are very evenly matched with McPherson coming into the game unbeaten at 11-0 while Andover Central is 10-1, it’s only loss being to Maize South, 24-17, in week five.

So evenly matched that the Bullpups average 332 yards per game on offense while the Jaguars cover 325 yards of offense per contest, though the Bullpups appear more balanced in their attack as they run for an average of 167 yards per game while throwing for another 165. The Jaguars are more passing oriented as they throw for 204 yards per contest while running for just a hair over 121.

This will be the third year in a row for McPherson to be playing at home in a state semi-final game and all hopes are that they can overcome being nipped by Andale in 2017 before losing late in the game last season to Goddard while inside the red zone on the final play of the game.

What the Jaguars will bring to the field on Friday will be star power at quarterback as they are led by senior quarterback Shomari Parnell who throws for 188 yards per game while totaling 204 in total offense every time they play.

In what could be the real key to the game, Andover Central will truly test a well-balanced Bullpup defense, especially with the back seven as the Jaguars offer up not one, but two all-star caliber receivers in seniors Xavier Bell and Matt Macy. Bell stands six-foot-three with long arms and a high jumping point which should challenge the Bullpup defensive backs. Bell has taken in 59 passes this season for 829 yards and 11 touchdowns – that’s 14.1 yards per catch. Complementing Bell in the Jaguar receiving group is Macy who has averaged close to 24 yards per catch this season as he has caught 35 passes for 832 yards and another 10 scores.

The job of stopping the Jaguar offense will be in the capable play of Mason Thrash, Brycen Labertew, Jayton Alexander, Cody Stufflebean, Tyson Gottwald, Noah Clarke, Jayden Dukes and Curtis Landrum. Thrash leads the Bullpups in total tackles on the season with 76 including 28 solo stops and four for loss of yardage. Labertew is right behind with 74 total tackles while Alexander has 69. Gottwald, Landrum and Stufflebean man the frontline and between the three have 117 tackles of which 53 were solo stops and 13 went for a loss of yardage. Stufflebean and Clarke both have four quarterback sacks for the year and will look to put some added pressure on Parnell in order to slow down the Jaguar offense.

When the Bullpups have the ball, the offense goes through quarterback Kaleb Hoppes who has thrown for 1,662 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019 while also running for another 612 yards and 11 other scores. Hoppes averages over 206 yards in total offense per game.

Giving Hoppes help when McPherson has the ball will be running back Jakob Feil who has run for 803 yards and 13 scores this season while wide receivers Aaron Powell (49 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns), Trey Buckbee (29 receptions for 366 yards) and tight end Cody Stufflebean (12 catches for 193 yards and six touchdowns) will look to keep Hoppes able to air out the ball in keeping the Jaguar defense on its heels.

It seems that everything the Jaguars do on defense goes through senior linebacker Trey Degamo who has been a monster in 2019 with 133 tackles of which 73 have been solo stops while dropping opponents 13 times for a loss of yardage. The Bullpup air offense will have to watch out for Bell as he makes good use of his long arms and powerful jumping ability to hamper many throws sent his way this season.

Both the Bullpups and Jaguars will be focused defensively on stopping the big plays, those home run events that both offensive units can bring to the field at any time or in any situation the game may throw at them.

Or the game could come down to the one key of the game that may give the Bullpups the needed advantage – the kicking game, as they have that secret soccer weapon on their sideline. McPherson has Drew Schrader who made good on four field goals this past week in the Bullpups victory over Goddard and for the season has been successful on six field goals while working on 31 straight point-after-touchdown kicks. Schrader could be the weapon that makes the difference.

Either way, the winner of the Bullpup/Jaguar battle will then have the thrill of playing for a state Class 4A state championship on November 30 in Topeka against the winner of the other Class 4A semifinal between undefeated Paola (11-0) and Shawnee Mission Bishop Miege who is 9-2 for the year.

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(Post is SPONSORED by CrossDove Writers)