August 3, 2010
KEY GAME McPherson at Emporia October 22
If these two teams are to advance to the playoffs as expected, this game is only key in that it may determine which plays Hutchinson in the first round of the playoffs. It’s entirely possible that neither will, but here’s to hoping that either Delaney gets a shot at his mentor or McPherson tries to beat Dreiling for the first time.
When the new district alignment for this season came out last fall, McPherson had no idea their new marquee district match-up with Emporia would be loaded with thoughts of payback. At the time, the Bullpups were cruising through their league schedule, as has
become the norm since coach Tom Young arrived in 2006, awaiting another shot at though the Salthawks dispatched McPherson in the second half (55-20), the ‘Pups still looked in the aftermath like they might be the second-best team in Class 5A. Then Emporia, their future partner atop District 5, upset McPherson in the first round of the state playoffs, 35-33. In that game, it took the Spartans just two game minutes to erase McPherson’s 20-0 lead in the second quarter.
While Emporia won its first playoff game in 19 years, McPherson’s hopes to run the gamut of Carroll and Hutch in the next two rounds were dashed. In the second week of district play on October 22, they’ll return to Emporia for a re-match.
Emporia, of the Topeka-based Centennial League, will have a different makeup this time. Not only has their punishing fullback Mark Kolmer graduated, but five-year coach Bill Lowe left to take the head job at newly-opened Blue Valley Southwest.
Retaining Lowe’s staff at the helm is first-time head coach and former four-year Hutch assistant Dustin Delaney, 30, who has at least one advantage should the Spartans meet up with his old team in the playoffs: a watertight scouting report. As a Salthawk,
he toiled over such vital minutiae week in, week out for Hutch coach Randy Dreiling. Delaney, who grew up in Wichita, will be right at home at Welch Stadium, Emporia High’s Friday night digs on the campus of Emporia State: he helped coordinate three of Hutch’s last four state title wins there and played his college ball for the ESU Hornets.
McPherson, though it loses 10 of 11 starters on defense, will have a potent offensive attack once again, though one might not expect it following quarterback Joel Piper’s graduation. In Piper’s stead is Goddard transfer Tyler Mathews, who left the Lions after being the playcaller the final seven weeks of the season. Mathews, who
passed for over 1,000 yards despite a completion percentage under 50, will not lack targets in the McPherson spread, led by Christian Ulsaker, who averaged 14.5 yards per catch in 2009. McPherson’s 1,000-yard tailback Kevin O’Connor also returns. The scheduling idiosyncrasy of 2010 involves McPherson. According to Steve
Sell of the McPherson Sentinel, not since McPherson played Hutchinson for the first time since 1920 in 1978 as a new member of the Ark Valley League have the two schools not played each other during the high school football regular season.
McPherson didn’t stand pat, though; they went out and scheduled Gardner-Edgerton, the 5A state finalist out of the East in 2009 and the one team everyone thinks has a shot at beating Hutch this season.
Good on you, fellas. Play the best, beat the best – or at least try, I guess. Had Mac not scheduled Gardner, they would have had a clear shot at their first undefeated regular season in school history, something which eluded them in each of the past three regular
seasons, all marred by one loss to the Salthawks.
One of the notches on Randy Dreiling’s belt is that in 13 seasons he has never lost to the rival Bullpups.
On the back pages of the 2010 edition of District 5 is Pat Haxton’s arrival
at Valley Center. A Class 3A state champion in 2005 at Southeast of Saline, which that November became the first team in five years to defeat Conway Springs in the postseason, Haxton arrives with more fanfare than his three-year predecessor John Black, though he has his work cut out for him.
The Hornets completed their second winless season in the last five in 2009 and have won just six games over that time span. District opponents McPherson and Newton have swept Valley Center in that same time period, and combined to score 112 points on Newton, which has chased one team, McPherson, in league play over the past
several seasons, enters a new era following its promotion to Division 1 of the AVCTL.
The Railers play Maize, Hutch, Salina South and Salina Central, none of whom they An otherwise solid 2009 regular season had two blemishes: 30-7 to McPherson and 52-27 to Kapaun. Their three playoff appearances in the past four seasons have ended in the first round against Carroll by large deficits. The juiced-up schedule this season
could be an opportunity to become more battle-tested for the playoffs in coming years.
Advancing: McPherson, Emporia