During an interview Wednesday morning, Andover football coach Mike Lee spoke with confidence about his team's balanced offense heading into Saturday's second-round Class 4A playoff game at Topeka Hayden.
Senior quarterback Aaron Hansen, who has 1,372 passing yards, was a perfect complement to junior running back Ben Croituru (1,410 rushing yards).
Several hours later, though, Lee's voice shook with emotion as he relayed the news — Hansen's season is over.
Hansen, a three-year starter, hurt his right knee during Tuesday's game with Andover Central. An MRI on Wednesday revealed he had a torn meniscus, a partial ACL tear and a deep bone bruise.
"It's very sad," Lee said. "It's not the game, it's the kid. He's as great a kid as you'll ever meet. It's absolutely devastating.
"It's tough to tell a kid something that will make him feel better, other than, 'we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. We wouldn't be 9-2 last year if it wasn't for you. We'd be checking in equipment.' "
The loss hit the Trojans players hard.
"It hurts our team a lot," Croituru said. "He was our main focal point and a leader on our team. We have to move on from this and look ahead. It is a big impact on our team. He's a big threat."
Lee has faith in the Trojans' support, and that's what he told backup Jordan Jones shortly after finding out about Hansen.
"I told him, 'I have no doubt that your teammates will rally around you,' " Lee said. "This is a pretty close group, and I think they will."
Jones and Hansen have split snaps evenly in practice since August. And he can rely on Croituru to get key yardage and draw the defense's focus.
Andover, which has won nine consecutive games since a season-opening loss to Buhler, also will rely on its defense.
"The nice thing about playing Buhler right away is you find out what you need to work on," Lee said. "They did a nice job showing us what we need to work on, especially defense."
Lee said the defensive issues weren't personnel issues. So the coaching staff focused on fundamentals.
"We really simplified what we do on defense," Lee said. "... Let's take some of the mental burden off the players. We're not big, but we can run. Let's turn these guys loose. That's the biggest thing we did. Let's get to where we can run smart."
Andover allowed 52 points to Buhler in the opener — and 89 points in nine games since.
Andover's at the point that it feels it can shut teams down, which has become even more important with Hansen out.
"I would say (defense) is significantly more important," linebacker Alex Goldberg said. "We're going somewhere that we're not really used to. We had a guy starting for three years, so if we can help him settle in and do his job...."