BY JIM MISUNAS
The underdog Great Bend Panthers discovered an offensive identity. Quarterback Cayden Scheuerman led the passing game and Braylon Council combined for nine passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
The powerful 4A McPherson Bullpups finally put away pesky Great Bend 34-19 in Friday's non-league football game. The Panthers (0-3) have lost 11 consecutive games heading to a road game at Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel next week. Hays, Maize South and Kapaun are ranked in the top three in the 5A West.
The Panthers made amazing progress in week three against a McPherson team that's reached the 4A state semifinals four consecutive years.
Scheuerman threw for 191 yards to go with 57 rushing yards. Council caught 33- and 36-yard scoring strikes from Scheuerman to keep the Panthers within striking range.
"We showed that we could play against a really good football team. I was proud of the way our guys battled for four quarters," said Great Bend coach Erin Beck. "We wanted to see them compete and not be scared of the challenge. There were a lot of positives. Now, we've got to find a way to get over the hump and win a ballgame."
Scheuerman executed the Panthers' short passing game with several quick screen passes. The biggest change was the Panthers hit two pass plays downfield for touchdowns.
"The pass is a football equalizer," Beck said. "We had the ability to stretch their defense. It helped open our outside zone running game. Cody Miller gained some yardage on cutback lanes. We had players who made football plays tonight from Scheuerman, Council and Stefan Spray. Our offensive line took a great step forward, which we wanted to see."
4A state-ranked McPherson led the Panthers 21-13 at halftime in a hotly-contest first half. The Bullpups passed for 109 yards and gained 186 yards. The Panthers passed for 104 yards and gained 147 yards.
When quarterback Scheuerman connected with Council on a dazzling 36-yard score, the Panthers were within 22-19 with 8:07 left in the third period. The score was set up by a fumble recovery by Scott Heilman.
The Bullpups regrouped and converted 32- and 35-yard field goals by Blaise Hoover and added an 8-yard scoring dash by Jaytin Gumm to seal the deal.
Great Bend's defense was sparked by safeties Paco Hernandez and Brad Beck with 12 spots apiece and linebacker Joseph Moeder had 10 tackles, including a 13-yard sack on quarterback Hunter Alvord.
The Panthers' defense worked without coaches Jeff Lutt and and Kelly Brack Friday, but Bryce Wells and Bill Maddy filled the coaching void with their leadership.
"Our defense made some huge plays and stops," Beck said. "The kids made plays. We made McPherson punt several times, which you want to see. Scott Heilman and Joseph Moeder made huge plays on the edge."
The Bullpups led 14-0 and 21-7, but the Panthers responded with their first touchdowns of the season. McPherson's Aiden Hoover scored on a 7-yard touchdown run from shotgun formation. Jaytin Gumm made his first offensive play pay off with a 47-yard halfback pass to a wide open Ayden Johnson for a 14-0 lead.
"Overall, our defense did a good job," Beck said. "They've got a vertical passing game and we kept them in check."
But the Panthers rallied with their best offensive play of the season. Scheuerman completed a 4-yard fade pattern to Stefan Spray for a 14-7 score. Maddox Spray completed a 23-yard pass to a leaping Stefan Spray after catching a lateral from Scheuerman.
McPherson answered with a 55-yard drive capped by Aiden Hoover's 8-yard touchdown pass to Trey Buckbee, who soared to beat Brayton Council. Council got quick revenge with a leaping 33-yard reception that beat Dawson Gottwald and Luke Schroeder in the endzone for a 21-13 score.
It could be a preview of the Panthers' first 4A playoff game if they remain No. 16 while the Bullpups remain the No. 1 team in the West.
McPherson 14 7 3 10 – 34
Great Bend 0 13 6 0 – 19
MC–Aiden Hoover 7 run (Blaise Hoover kick)–4:36; MC–Ayden Johnson 47 pass from Jaytin Gumm (B. Hoover kick)–2:00; GB–Stefan Spray 4 pass from Cayden Scheuerman (Alex Galindo kick)–10:15; MC–Trey Buckbee 8 pass from Aiden Hoover (B. Hoover kick)–5:19; GB–Braylon Council 33 pass from Scheuerman (kick blocked)–2:06; GB–Council 36 pass from Scheuerman (pass fails)–8:07; MC–B. Hoover 32 FG–1:03; MC–Gumm 8 run (B. Hoover kick)–9:59; MC–B. Hoover 35 FG–5:57
RUSHING–MC–46-182; Sky Schriner 18-101; Gumm 16-81; Jayden Dukes 1-14; Aiden Hoover 2-10; Hunter Alvord 7-(-9); team 2-(-15); GB–27-56; Cody Miller 13-46; Gavin Haberman 2-6; Cayden Scheuerman 10-21; team 2-(-17).
PASSING–MC–Alvord 9-11-0 70; Gumm 1-1-0, 47; Aiden Hoover 1-1-0, 8; GB–Scheuerman 14-25-1, 166; Maddox Spray 1-1-0, 23.
RECEIVING–MC–Johnson 1-47; Tucker Pelnar 4-41; Dukes 4-22; Buckbee 2-15; GB–Council 9-145; S. Spray 4-37; Haberman 1-2, Maddox Spray 1-5.