Buhler junior running back Dalton Brown isn’t tall in stature at 5-10, 175 pounds, but he played a gigantic role Friday night in the Crusaders’ 24-14 Class 4A-I victory over Mulvane.
Brown carried 24 times for 286 yards, including touchdown runs of 69 and 57 yards, powering Buhler (10-1) into the semifinals next Friday at Maize South (10-1).
Maize South won a Week 2 meeting between the teams 21-14.
Brown, who also had runs of 52 and 34 yards, praised his line for making the holes that allowed his outstanding performance.
“They’re really good,” he said. “They’re tremendous. I’m proud of them.
“I can only do as much as my offensive linemen will allow me to do. I know you can be the best running back in the world, but have the crappiest linemen, then you can’t do anything. All praise to them.”
Warner said some adjustments were made early on to help the running game.
“We did some different things, then we came right back to what we like to do, and that’s run at people,” he said.
Brown made the right reads on a couple of toss-sweeps, Warner said.
“He made some great plays, making people miss,” he said. “I know we had some good blocking on the perimeter, too, but Dalton proved he’s a great running back.”
Mulvane coach Dave Fennewald said he knew the problems that Brown presented.
“I saw him at the Hutch camp this summer, and this is just like Tailback U. here (at Buhler),” Fennewald said. “I don’t know how many years they have had these great tailbacks. He’s another one in the long lines, he’s just a very, very good football player.”
After a first half that was destined to end in a 7-7 tie, Buhler forged ahead at the break on Braden Rose’s 44-yard field goal – a feat that was accomplished after the Crusaders were moved back 5 yards because of an illegal-motion penalty to the Mulvane 27.
Rose’s kick had a very high trajectory, but managed to clear the crossbar.
“It was really big, right before halftime, to have a three-point lead,” Warner said. “We ran the draw and got into field-goal position, then had a penalty. We didn’t think about how far the actual kick was when we sent him out there, but we’ve seen him kick 50-yarders in practice. We know that he’s got the leg. It’s a lot different with the lights on, but he did a great job, and he nailed it.”
Brown pushed the lead to 17-7, a lead the Crusaders would never relinquish on Buhler’s second possession of the second half. He capped the four-play, 66-yard drive by taking the handoff on fourth-and-1 up the middle, hitting the hole very quickly and outracing the Wildcats for 57 yards.
Mulvane jumped out to a 7-0 lead when junior quarterback Jayden Price found senior Zach Helbing over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown.
But just two plays later, Buhler quarterback Ethan White found 6-3 target Dalton Smyres on the left side behind the Wildcats secondary, and Smyres raced the rest of the way for the tying touchdown.
“Our team is mainly run, but it’s kind of nice to have coach (Warner) have the trust to go to me as a receiver whenever they need it,” Smyres said. “I do what I can.”
Warner said his team doesn’t give up.
“We keep fighting,” he said. “We knew we had to be ready, and we knew we were going to have to score points. I never dreamed that our defense would hold (Mulvane) to 14 points. That says something. Our defense was outstanding.”
Smyres also had a key 10-yard pass reception to the Buhler 31 for a first down just before Brown broke his 69-yard scoring run.
“It was third down and we probably would have punted if we hadn’t gotten the first down,” Smyres said. “It was really nice to get that first down so Dalton could score that touchdown right after.”
Just as remarkable was the play of the Buhler defense. White and Smyres, part of the Crusaders’ defensive backfield, limited Price to just 85 passing yards, and the Wildcats passing game that was so effective last week against Augusta struggled Friday night.
“We knew they had a great defense coming in, but they were just awful physical on defense,” Fennewald said. “They gave our offensive line a lot of fits (Friday night).
“We didn’t catch the ball real well (Friday). A lot of them would have been tough catches and things, but our kids have been making those catches all year.”
M – Helbing 29 pass from Price (Coon kick)
B – Smyres 65 pass from White (Rose kick)
B – Rose FG 44
B – Brown 57 run (Rose kick)
M – Shoemaker 2 run (Coon kick)
B – Brown 69 run (Rose kick)
RUSHING – Mulvane: Price 14-50, Shoemaker 11-33, Helbing 1-6, Myears 1-(-3). Buhler: Da. Brown 24-286, Ja. Goertzen 9-44, White 6-14, Burkhart 1-4.
PASSING – Mulvane: Price 8-23-1-85. Buhler: White 6-14-1-101.
RECEIVING – Mulvane: Blaine 3-16, Ellis 2-15, Helbing 1-29, Dunlap 1-16, Myears 1-9. Buhler: Smyres 3-97, Da. Brown 1-2, Burkhart 1-2.