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Another road test for Hays High

Published on -9/6/2012, 11:58 AM

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McPherson has been a Class 5A powerhouse for much of the past decade.

But this season, the Bullpups dropped to 4A and are without some of the studs that put them on the map, and after playing behind against El Dorado for the first three quarters, some in the state might be questioning whether or not the Bullpups still are a dominant team.

Hays High School football coach Ryan Cornelsen is not among them.

Cornelsen believes McPherson should be even better than Class 6A Junction City, who the Indians lost to 44-43 in overtime Friday.

"They are solid at all 11 positions," Cornelsen said. "There's no doubt they have a shot to win 4A. It doesn't matter if they are 4A or 5A. They'd be in it to win it."

McPherson, ranked No. 2 in the statewide medial poll, is without several of its household names.

Quarterback Tyler Matthews is at Texas Christian University, while wide receiver Jordan Hart is playing for Washburn University. The Bullpups also graduated two of their best offensive linemen.

However, the Bullpups return speedy tailback Austin O'Bannon, who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards in 2011, and bruising fullback Dalton Clark, who ran for 207 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries against El Dorado after O'Bannon went down with muscle cramps.

And like Hays High, McPherson has a sophomore under center.

Kyler Kinnamon played quarterback against El Dorado and finished 3 of 10 passing for 54 yards and an interception. He also ran for 92 yards and a touchdown, which included a 73-yard scamper for a score.

"They still spread the ball some, but yeah, they've got the good fullback and tailback," Cornelsen said. "Their quarterback is awfully athletic -- a young kid. I'd say they are more predominately run this year, but they still want to throw the ball."

Senior wide receiver and defensive back Jake Sedbrook agreed with Cornelsen and said he expects McPherson to be as strong as ever.

"I'm definitely expecting a tough game," he said. "They look athletic. They look big, but I think our coaches will get us through it."

El Dorado, which finished 1-8 in 2011, managed to stick with McPherson for three quarters before the Bullpups pulled away for a 41-20 victory, but El Dorado is more experienced this season.

The Wildcats returned nine starters on offense and defense from last season's team and feature junior quarterback Travis House, who was able to carve up McPherson's secondary.

House finished 25 of 37 for 232 yards and also ran for 41 yards.

"El Dorado had a good quarterback who could throw the ball," Cornelsen said. "He scrambled and chucked it deep, kept them in the game, but there was no comparison between the two teams. McPherson is really good."

Cornelsen said in order to keep up with McPherson, Hays High is going to have to play "sound" offense and defense, which was something he said his team didn't do against Junction City.

In Cornelsen's previous three years coaching Hays High, the Indians have been successful stopping the run, but against Junction City, the Indians allowed the Blue Jays to run at will, especially late in the game when the defense had gotten tired. The Indians also had 16 penalties.

"We've got to make a lot of corrections," Cornelsen said. "We made a lot of assignment errors defensively. Just drastically, assignment errors."

Cornelsen said it's a difficult task trying to make corrections while also game planning for McPherson. With his young unit, he said he doesn't expect every problem to be solved this week.

"But hopefully through the season, we'll get those things ironed out as we go," Cornelsen said.

The last time Hays High faced McPherson, it was during the final district game of Cornelsen's first year with the Indians. Hays High lost 49-19 at Lewis Field Stadium. The loss knocked the Indians out of contention for the state playoffs.

Sedbrook was a freshman then and said he remembers watching it from the sideline. Even though he didn't play in that game, he said the Indians are going to try to avenge that loss.

But to do that, Sedbrook said his team has to be better than they were last Friday.

"We've got to come out and practice hard," he said. "We can't get tired in the late quarters again and come together as a team."

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