Buhler was undefeated in the 2011 season until they faced Topeka Hayden in the third game of state playoffs. The Crusaders had only one loss in each of their last two seasons, but in 2012 they will be a bit inexperienced as they graduated a number of talented seniors in 2011.
Coach: Steve Warner (entering 25th year as head coach 178-76; entering 7th year as head coach at Buhler 57-14)
2011 Recap: 11-1 overall, 5-0 in league, 3-0 in district
2012 District: at Andale, Cheney, Nickerson
Returning Starters: Offense 3, Defense 4
Returning Lettermen: 14
Offense: The Buhler Crusaders offense dominated the 2011 season as they outscored their opponents 556-89. Strong blocks on the offensive line repeatedly set up a lane for last season’s AVCTL Div. III offensive MVP Tanner Fisher. Fisher had 2,133 rushing yards and ran for 37 touchdowns in his senior season. Wide receiver JP Lohrentz will also be a tough graduate to replace as he averaged 80.6 receiving yards per game and was named to the all-league first team.
“Losing the number of seniors we did last year,” said Coach Warner in regards to the weaknesses the team will face this year. “Our starting lineup will not have a lot of experience.”
Every team has a mountain to climb after graduating talented athletes, and Buhler has begun the climb by replacing their all-league running back with junior speedster Riley Allen.
“We have built a winning program,” said Coach Warner. “Our kids believe in themselves and they want more. We lost several good seniors, but we have quality kids to replace them.”
For Buhler to continue to be a strong program, they will need leadership and productivity from Allen who played on special teams last year. Other top returners for the Crusader offense include junior tight end Luke Berblinger and senior offensive lineman Quentin Gould. Gould was a member of the all-league second team in 2011, and will play alongside fellow senior all-league offensive lineman Brandon Keeler.
Buhler runs the ball because they are great at it, and with the transfer of quarterback Chandler Shantz, they will depend on their legs even more.
Defense: The defense was impeccable last season for the Buhler Crusaders while only allowing an average of 7.4 points per game. Linebacker Logan Ahrens earned second team all-league honors in 2011 and will return as a senior in 2012. Sophomore defensive lineman Heath Davidson was also on second team last year. Davidson was a lead tackler for the Crusaders in his freshman season, and is capable of leading the defense without last year’s senior leadership Jadyn Garcia, Levi Boman, and Josh Long.
Junior defensive end Brendan Martens is also expected to have a good season and help the team reach a state title game.
Last season, Buhler shut out three teams and gave up more than ten points in only two of their twelve games.
Odds and Ends: Buhler will begin their season at home against the defending 4A state champions Rose Hill. Last year the Crusaders gave the Rockets their only loss of the season, and this season they are even hungrier for a win due to the success of the Rose Hill team last season.
Buhler will play two of their district games at their home field, which gives them a chance at entering the post-season with some home grown confidence.