By William

MCPHERSON – When you have a run of three straight seasons with double digit wins and then loose the most successful class of seniors in the team’s history, you would think that McPherson Bullpup Head football coach Jace Pavlovich would be worried – he’s not!

The Bullpups have gone 32-4 the past three seasons and lost but once in each of the past two, but with six returning offensive starters and five more on defense, Coach Pavlovich looks toward another strong season for 2020 despite the worries of a pandemic maybe interfering with it.

“Our number one goal is to simply reach our potential and only worry about what we can control,” noted Coach Pavlovich. “For example, we can not control the strength of our schedule this year or next, and we can not control the weather among other things. The point is, we missed the playoffs last year and now our goal is simple, we want to be playing good football towards the end of the year.”

Another key factor with the Bullpups football program is consistency and consistency is brightest for the Bullpups with the coaching staff, all of whom have been with Coach Pavlovich for several season. Guys like defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Chet Harlin, defensive line coach Scott Davis, wide receiver coach Heath Gerstner, offensive coordinator and running back coach John Montgomery, defensive back coaches David Goerzen and Brandon Labertew, offensive line coach Patrick Corcoran and quarterback coach Matt Sandbo.

Coach Pavlovich enters his sixth year now as head coach after spending 11 seasons as a defensive coordinator at Hays High School (for two years) and with the Bullpups. He enters the new season with a 45-11 record and three trips to the state playoff semifinals using the phenomenally successful Spread I offensive and putting the hammer down on opponents with the seemingly always strong 4-2-5 base defense.

“What I am most proud of is the fact that our program has gone from five wins to eight wins, to 10 wins, and then to 11 wins over the past five seasons,” explained Coach Pavlovich. “We hope to continue that trend upwards this coming fall season.”

On defense, Coach Pavlovich welcomes back a strong starter on all three levels with Drew Hanken and Curtis Landrum returning on the defensive line, Brycen Labertew in the middle at linebacker and two strong defenders in the back with Jayton Alexander and Jayden Dukes.

When reflecting on the defense for the upcoming season, Coach Pavlovich knows that despite a strong group of returnees he still has to replace a pair of long-term starters, when he said, “Defensively, we have some big shoes to fill as both Cody Stufflebean (now playing at Kansas State) and Mason Thrash (playing at Butler Community College) were three-year starters and are hard to replace. Our defensive line should again be our strongest position while we need to find an inside linebacker and a couple of defensive backs to fill out a traditionally strong defense.”

While needing to replace everyone in the backfield, the offense does return six starters with offensive linemen Jonah Scott, Dakota Istas, and Blade Anderson along with three strong receivers in Aaron Powell, Trey Buckbee and Gus Ruddle.

Speaking of his offense, Coach Pavlovich added, “On offense, we feel solid with the quarterback position with senior Dylan Rinker but need to find someone stable at the running back spot. We have plenty of guys that can run the ball, we just must settle in with someone consistent. Our offensive strength will be the guys upfront as we will be large, deep, and athletic at that position, while our receivers will be handled well by Aaron Powell, Trey Buckbee and Gus Ruddle.”

Coach Pavlovich concluded his pre-season reflections by listing what he sees as his keys to success for the 2020 campaign, noting, “We lost the most successful class of seniors in our programs history. They will have a lasting impact on our program because our young guys learned from them how to do everything right. We have a ton of talented kids coming up in the program but are yet unproven in a starting capacity. The last two seasons, these guys have been able to practice eight extra weeks which should benefit us all.”

Among the teams on the 2020 schedule for the Bullpups will be home games with Salina South, Great Bend, El Dorado, and Augusta while they are currently set to travel to Circle, Winfield, Buhler and Mulvane with one Friday evening still yet to be determined for an opponent.

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