ANDALE — Andale's coaches likely will find some errors this morning when they study the video from Friday's 41-28 victory over Buhler. But they will be nit-picking.
Andale, No. 1 in Class 4A, opened District 15 play with an error-free win over No. 2 Buhler (6-1, 0-1). Andale can clinch a postseason berth with a win at Haven next week.
Andale (7-0, 1-0) did not commit a turnover. Even better, the Indians forced a fumble and intercepted Buhler quarterback Jake Reffner three times, all in the first half. Andale's Craig Simon returned an interception 38 yards late in the first half.
"We played our best game tonight," Andale coach Gary O'Hair said. "That's what's exciting, when you have a big game like this, the pressure's on, and the kids meet the challenge like that. I'm proud of them."
One of the challenges was holding Buhler running back Jorden Oden, one of the state's best. While he finished with one touchdown and 160 rushing yards on 27 carries, he was consistently hit either in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage.
"I think we did just about as good as you can do on him," O'Hair said.
The first half was a defensive battle. After Buhler fumbled on the game's second play, the Crusaders stopped Andale on a goal-line stand and took over on their own 4.
The teams traded punts on the next four possessions before Andale senior Ben Horsch intercepted Reffner's second pass. He took it 29 yards to the Buhler 39. Eleven plays later, Buhler scored the game's first points on Jake Weninger's 1-yard run.
A little more than two minutes later, Simon intercepted Reffner and scored for the 13-0 lead.
"We came into the game knowing we had to create some turnovers, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Simon said.
In the second half, Andale and Buhler combined for eight touchdowns, including three in the final 1:19.
Andale was led by Jake Hattabaugh, who had 18 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown. James Tipton had 50 rushing yards, while Weninger had 38.
"Weninger had a good game," O'Hair said. "He's been improving all year. It's neat having those two little backs, who get in behind that offensive line."
Reffner got back on track in the second half, completing 11 of his final 13 passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
But Andale was always out of reach.
Buhler coach Steve Warner was glum following the game.
"Very disappointed," he said. "It's not where we wanted to be. We have to win our next two games in district and hopefully get into the playoffs and hopefully meet them again."
Buhler (6-1, 0-1) 0 0 7 21 — 28 Andale (7-0, 1-0) 0 13 14 14 — 41
A—Weninger 1 rush (Finney kick)
A—Simon 38 interception return (miss kick)
A—Tipton 22 run (Finney kick)
B—Oden 2 run (Heide kick)
A—Tipton 12 run (Finney kick)
B—Lohrentz 11 pass from Reffner (Heide kick)
A—Hattabaugh 11 run (Finney kick)
B—Davidson 6 pass from Reffner (Heide kick)
A—Trent 50 onside kick return (Finney kick)
B—Wimer 27 pass from Reffner (Heide kick)
Rushing—Buhler, Oden 27-160, Reffner 14-112, Davidson 3-13, Wimer 1-9, Fisher 1-5. Andale, Hattabaugh 18-133, Tipton 12-50, Weninger 13-38, Lester 4-23.
Passing—Buhler, Reffner 11-18-104-3. Andale, Weninger 4-7-47-0, Hattabaugh 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—Buhler, Wimer 5-60, Oden 1-13, Lohrentz 1-11, Montandon 2-9, Davidson 1-6, Fisher 1-5. Andale, Hermreck 2-18, O'Hair 1-16, Scheer 1-13.