Shortly after Buhler's football game against Rose Hill on Friday, it might have been difficult to tell that Buhler was hours removed from a history-making win in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
The mood among players turned somber when they found out star running back Jordan Oden had a broken collarbone and wouldn't play again in the postseason.
The Crusaders are doing their best to put his injury behind them as they prepare to play at defending state champion Topeka Hayden on Friday in Buhler's first trip to the semifinals since 1990.
"The excitement is still there," coach Steve Warner said. "We accentuate the positive and don't dwell on the negatives. The hardest part is Friday night. You win a football game against and lose your star tailback. There was a lot of tears that night.
"But Sunday at meetings and Monday, the kids were excited and ready to play and they know what they have to do."
There's no replacing the 2,559 yards Oden gained in leading Buhler to an 11-1 record.
But someone has to take his place and the Crusaders are confident his backups are up to the task.
Tanner Fisher has averaged better than eight yards per carry in limited time and is expected to start in Oden's place. Physical fullback Roman Davidson is strong in short-yardage situations and can break for long gains.
And Jake Reffner is a dual threat, having passed for more than 900 yards and rushed for more than 1,100.
"Everybody on the team is going to have to play a little harder and a little better," Warner said. "When you lose a player like (Oden), you have to ask everybody to step up some."
Buhler's offensive line is anchored by three players 270 pounds or more, so Oden's success wasn't autonomous.
The group has helped Buhler rush for more than 10 yards per carry and 427 yards per game. The linemen have made Oden's job easier, and Buhler believes they can do the same for Fisher, Davidson, Reffner and anyone else who might touch the ball.
"Our offensive line is amazing," Reffner said. "They've been working on their blocking schemes since December of last year. Then during the season they would come in every morning and watch film and talk about how they would get better. Everything they do makes them better."
Oden might not be done giving the Crusaders a lift — he has been supportive during this week and will be active on the sidelines Friday in a role Reffner describes as another coach.
Warner wouldn't give up his game plan against Hayden, but with the success Buhler has had running, it doesn't figure that an injury, however major, would alter his philosophy.
"We love where we're at right now," Reffner said."... In our mind we're not finished yet. We want to keep playing football and we're going to do everything we can to win. If we lose, it's not because we didn't have Jordan, it's because we didn't play our game."