August 24, 2010
There were only two games remaining in the 2009 Kansas high school football season, and, amazingly, Buhler was still alive in the sub-state round. The Crusaders had been this far only once before (1990).
Going into sub-state at Topeka Hayden after a 64-28 sectionals thrashing of Rose Hill, the loss of top rusher Jordan Oden to a collarbone injury turned backward their momentum. Even without their 2,500-yard rusher, Buhler played Hayden to a 14-14 halftime tie. The second half got away from them in a 35-21 loss.
The loss of an opportunity to go to state was hard on the Crusaders, especially for then fourth-year coach Steve Warner.
“When I came in, they were freshmen and they developed the ability to work real hard,” Warner says.
On the bright side, it was a breakout season for Buhler. Never before in school history had Buhler achieved double-digit victories in a single season.
Every leading offensive producer graduated, leaving vacancies at important positions.
“Replacing the senior leadership we had will be the biggest challenge,” Warner says. “They set the bar for the rest of the kids.”
Though Buhler loses three offensive skill players who combined for 5,346 yards last season, their large margins of victory in most games allowed them to get this year’s starters experience ahead of their time.
A quarterback battle is in place between sophomore Chandler Shantz and junior Trevor Torgerson, though a minor shoulder injury may hold Torgerson from the position this season. Junior Tanner Fisher stepped in as a sophomore to replace Oden after his injury. Though limited on his other 10 carries against Hayden, Fisher broke for a 50-yard run at sub-state, a positive harbinger during a disappointing ending.
“Tanner has a little quicker feet than (Oden) did,” Warner says. “But, he’ll run people over like (Oden) and speed off, too.”
Filling in as senior captains are lineman Matt Dobson and linebacker Jordan Stiles. Dobson led a line which Warner says has improved tremendously its overall strength.
Though Andale is no longer in their district, Buhler is not looking past the Indians’ relplacement, Pratt.
“Before I got here, I know Pratt beat us a couple years in a row, so they have our respect,” Warner says. “Competitive-wise, I think the district will be the same.”