Human physiology 101. If it’s cold outside, run to keep warm.
Friday night, with temperatures dipping into the 20s, it might as well have been mid-August for Buhler in a 38-14, Class 4A-Division I quarterfinal win over Andover Central.
“You start moving, you start making plays, the cold doesn’t bother you that much,” Buhler running back Dillon Engelland said. “Dakota (Wolf) was blocking great for me tonight, and after awhile out there you just don’t feel the cold.
“This time of the year, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to get the job done.”
Behind Engelland’s 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns and another 143 rushing yards from quarterback Jace Williams, the Crusaders more than did the job as their defense limited opportunities for the Jaguars the entire night.
“We played great defense and moved the ball on the ground,” Buhler coach Steve Warner said. “The cold affects the passing game a little bit, but for the most part I thought our offensive line handled things up front.”
Buhler (9-2), which won the Class 4A championship last season, travels to Topeka Hayden (10-1) next Friday for a semifinal game.
“I think we’re starting to settle in, to really understand what’s at stake right now,” Williams said. “Survive and advance, that’s how it works.”
Williams, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior, was intercepted by Thomas Graham on the Crusaders’ first series, and flirted with disaster on the next series, testing Andover Central defensive back Darraja Parnell in the flat. But Parnell dropped a surefire pick-six in the flat and Buhler drove down for a 2-yard touchdown run by Engelland for a 6-0 lead with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
“It’s a tough loss,” Parnell said. “Tough to end the season like that, but Buhler is a great team.”
Engelland scored again, this time on a 65-yard run, to give Buhler a 14-0 lead with 8:38 left in the second quarter, but Andover Central’s Jordan Birch answered back on the Jaguars’ next possession with a 61-yard run.
That’s when Williams took over.
Getting the ball back with 1:19 left at the Buhler 20-yard line, he grabbed a big chunk of yardage with a bootleg, then ripped off a 29-yard run to the Andover Central 24-yard line, then sprinted through the heart of the Jaguars’ defense on the next play for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 31 seconds left in the first half.
“We had a couple of play calls that fell apart, and I started to improvise,” Williams said. “Just looking for what’s open, just looking for what will help the team the most.”
Engelland capped a six-minute drive by Buhler to open the second half with a 15-yard touchdown run, and the Crusaders added another score on a 50-yard pass from Williams to Wolf.
Buhler held the Jaguars to just 87 rushing yards, with Birch picking up the bulk of them with 77 yards on 18 carries. Andover Central quarterback Peyton Huslig threw for 161 yards and one touchdown.
Andover Central coach Tom Audley praised his team’s turnaround from last season — and Buhler — afterward.
“Buhler’s a great team, a great, great team,” Audley said. “We thought we could get to their defense, but that just wasn’t the case.
“I’m proud of our guys, of what they did this year. This team won three games last year and only had two starters back and they made it this far. That’s something to be proud of.”
B—Engelland 2 run (kick failed)
B—Engelland 65 run (Wolf pass from Williams)
AC—Birch 61 run (Schoonover kick)
B—Williams 24 run (Wolf kick)
B—Engelland 15 run (Wolf kick)
AC—Anthemides 41 pass from Huslig (Schoonover kick)
B—Wolf 50 pass from Williams (Wolf kick)
B—Wolf 21 FG
Rushing – Andover Central, Huslig 3-6, Birch 18-77, Brown 1-2, Schoonover 1-2. Buhler, Williams 20-143, Engelland 18-176, Wolf 2-17, White 1-2, Goertzen 1-(-2) Brown 4-12.
Passing – Andover Central, Huslig 11-28-161-1. Buhler, Williams 5-15-84-2.
Receiving – Andover Central, Parnell 6-57, Birch 2-15, Anthemides 3-89. Buhler, Stiles 1-21, Engelland 1-6, Shantz 1-7, Wolf 1-50.