It’s been a rough season for the Ulysses Tigers.

Not because of how they’ve played football, standing at a solid 4-4 entering Friday’s 7 p.m. state playoff game at McPherson, but because of off the field reasons.

First and foremost, longtime and beloved head football coach and athletic director Jason Kenny died unexpectedly on July 24 at age 47. It’s the type of thing no football team expects to have to handle.

And something sophomore Koy Kenny, Jason’s son, never expected to have to handle so young, as well.

But Koy Kenny’s strength through the loss of his father has been a binding ingredient for the Tigers this season, according to interim head coach Rick Cue.

“I think what’s made this easier for everybody is the way that coach Kenny’s son has adjusted,” Cue said. “He’s been our leader in the locker room and on the field, and it’s been easy to follow that.

“He’s had tremendous stability through all of this. And because of him, the team has followed his lead.”

A lot to ask of a sophomore, but Koy Kenny has delivered.

“Because of that, you’re saying a lot about his dad, without a doubt,” Cue said.

And now Koy Kenny will help the Tigers head into their biggest on-field hurdle, the undefeated and second-ranked in Class 4A, the McPherson Bullpups.

“They’re a good team,” Cue said. “Their defensive line is massive and talented. They have two really good receivers, a good quarterback. They don’t really have a weakness.”

The Bullpups are averaging 53.2 points per game and allowing just 7.3.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have nearly identical points per game and allowed points per game at 25.1 and 24.9, respectively. But the progress from a 2-3 start is clear for Cue.

“We’ve come a long way,” Cue said. “Kids have gotten a little bit more maturity. We didn’t have any starters on our offensive line at all, so that was a little sketchy early.”

Due to the line inexperience, the Tigers have gone to the air more than recent years, when they’ve been one of the better running teams in the state on a year-by-year basis.

“For the first time in our history that I can find, we’ve thrown for more yards than we’ve run for,” Cue said. “It’s just kind of strange for us to have a quarterback that’s thrown for over 1,300 yards.”

That’s quarterback Devin Walker who has led the Ulysses offense, throwing for a 68-yard touchdown in the Tigers’ 28-0 win over Abilene in the playoff opener last week.