Early in his career Steve Warner learned that Abilene High School is a tough place to take his football team.
Warner has changed venues over the years and Saturday night he told his team to take nothing for granted at Abilene’s Paul Dennis Field.
The Crusaders, who returned running back Tanner Fisher to the line up, turned back the home-standing Cowboys to the tune of a 49-6 beating. The victory propels the Crusaders into the third round of the Class 4A playoffs, which will be next Friday night when they play host to Topeka Hayden, who knocked off Mulvane 19-6.
Warner gained his knowledge to not take anything for granted in Abilene early in his coaching career when he coached Marysville High School, a North Central Kansas League rival of Abilene. Warner has changed venues to Buhler and he coached Fisher to 365 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries and the Crusader defense to hold Abilene off the scoreboard for the first 32 minutes and 51 seconds.
“I know Abilene pretty well,” Warner said. “They know me pretty well. We had some great battles when I was at Marysville and we have played them five times since I have been at Buhler. It has been a great rivalry.”
Fisher did not play in Buhler’s 56-6 win over Holcomb on Tuesday due to a staph infection, but he needed just one offensive play to reintroduce himself to his teammates Saturday night.
The Crusaders won the opening kickoff and elected to defer, allowing the Cowboys to open the game with possession of the ball.
Abilene started the game with a 10-play drive, which covered 36 yards, but that was 41 yards shy of the end zone and the Cowboys punted the ball to Buhler. The ball went into the end zone on the punt, giving the Crusaders their first possession at their own 20 yard line.
On Buhler’s first play from scrimmage they tossed it to Fisher, who scampered up the right sideline and did not stop running until he had crossed the goal line, giving Buhler a 6-0 lead with 7:33 remaining in the opening quarter, which they did not relinquish the rest of the night.
“He was definitely ready to go,” Warner said of Fisher. “It was so good to see him ready to go.”
That was just the first of an offensive domination by the Crusaders, who finished the night with 499 yards of total offense while limiting Abilene to 317 yards of total offense. The Crusaders scored six offensive touchdowns and blocked one punt which was returned five yards for another score.
“We were able to use our front four,” Warner said of his defense. “We did some bring stunts, but I was very pleased with the way our front four played.”
The Crusaders, who improve to 11-0 on the season and qualify for the third round of the Class 4A playoffs for the fourth straight year, scored seven points in the first quarter, 21 in the second quarter, seven more in the third quarter and sowed up their scoring fest with seven more in the final period.
“It is our fourth year in a row of being in the top eight,” Warner said. “Now we have to beat Hayden. We know they are a great football team. Our goal still remains to be in the state championship game and win it.”
Warner said that the reason for the victory was relatively simple.
“Our offensive line and Tanner Fisher just running the ball,” Warner said. “Our defensive line did a great job tonight too. And our DBs played outstanding.”