There must be something in the water in Buhler when it comes to churning out great running backs.
Riley Allen busted out for 277 yards on 25 carries and the Crusaders held on against Rose Hill, the defending 4A state champions, to win 26-21 at home Friday night.
"Both teams fought hard - it was a great football game just like we knew it would be," said Steve Warner, Buhler head coach.
Allen stepped into former running back Tanner Fisher's cleats this season and he showed what he can do in the open space, breaking off tackle in the first quarter for a 50-yard touchdown scamper, leading 6-0, the first half's only score.
The relatively tepid first half lent itself to an exciting second. On their first possession in the third quarter, Buhler quarterback Luke Berblinger handed off to Allen and coughed it up for the Rose Hill defense. Rocket senior quarterback TJ Slade punched it in on their first play following, taking a 7-6 lead, their first of the game.
But that was very short lived for the Rockets. After getting corraled on the ensuing kickoff, Allen took the first play of the drive 76 yards down the home sideline for the go-ahead touchdown, up 12-7 in the third. It was the start of a three touchdown third quarter and the Crusaders stretched their lead to 26-7 heading to the fourth and final quarter.
"He had great explosion, he's a great tailback," said Warner of his running back. "Too bad he had one taken back because of a penalty."
The power running game that Rose Hill relied on for three years with Derrick Decker under center has turned to fiding space on the edge for shifty senior Johnny Pearson and Slade, but there was no room tonight against the Buhler defense. The Rockets found space in the air and began to throw it around in the final quarter. Slade hitting 6'5" Brett Waddell for a huge gain that set up the Pearson from five yards out and their second touchdown of the game, cutting the deficit to 26-14.
"We can't give up the big play on defense, but you know what, we started 11 new guys on defense and they played pretty tough," said Greg Slade, Rose Hill head coach. "These guys are going to get a lot better. We just have to clean up some things and we will be all right."
Rose Hill stepped up and shut down Buhler, took advantage of great field position for their next drive, using the Slade to Waddell combo to get inside the red zone before Slade went over on a sneak a few plays later, making it a 26-21 game with two minutes to play.
"The thing I told our kids is, I was pleased with how hard we played, but we had some first game mistakes that killed us," Slade said. "Offensively we have to take care of the ball and take advantage of our drives."
Buhler got the ball back and that would be it - two first downs and the Crusaders ran out the clock on the Rockets.