You can set your watch to Buhler rolling out a pounding, brute force offense with a crew up front that lives for creating the space an explosive back needs. With the duo of Dakota Wolf and Dillon Engelland, this fall will be no different.
But last season was a new dawn for weaponry in the Crusaders’ backfield.
As a sophomore last year, Jace Williams was hard to miss. Towering at 6-foot-4, the Buhler quarterback had all the physical tools to put the fear into any defense. However, having Riley Allen in the backfield cast a big shadow over the possibilities with the talented quarterback.
In the 4A state championship game, Coffeyville knew it had to stop Allen. And the Golden Tornado succeeded, daring the Crusaders to beat them with a sophomore by loading up the box.
Williams stepped up and changed the game on the way to Buhler’s first state championship.
“That was the one game as a kid you always wanted to play in,” said Williams. “So it didn’t really matter my age. It would have been nice to be a little older, a little more experienced. But I was there. I tried to make the best of it. I found my receivers when coach called my name and it worked out.”
With the running game struggling, Williams hit Chase Shantz in stride between the hashes for a 57-yard touchdown that gave Buhler a 10-6 lead it never gave up.
In the title game, Allen finished with 173 yards and 3 touchdowns. The foreshadowing is in the way Williams paved the way. The sophomore threw for 149 yards, including the 57-yard touchdown pass, and ran for 58 yards as well. The passing dynamic, along with the ability to carry the ball himself was something Coffeyville wasn’t ready for. It left the Golden Tornado scrambling to catch up, a shell game with the Buhler two steps ahead.
The Crusaders are hoping with Williams returning under center, that scramble continues throughout the next season. Williams is looking forward to continuing the success as well.
“I want to be the guy that coach calls on,” said Williams. “Like, we need a play. Hit a receiver. Run the ball. Don’t just all rely on one running back or one receiver. I want to be the man I guess.”
Despite having some teams in the past capable of making a run at a state title, Buhler has suffered heartbreaking late-round playoff losses at the hands of both Topeka Hayden and Holton. Last fall, the Crusaders shook the curse with an enormous win for the school over Holton in the semifinals. Coming into the Holton game, the Buhler confidence was high. After the game it was soaring, with a sophomore quarterback, and one more test to make school history.
“For me it was just game by game,” said Williams. “It doesn’t matter how good the team is, you always want to play the best you can. Just knowing that you can beat a team like that was nice to know.”
With Williams a year older and wiser, along with Wolf and Engelland in the backfield, the Crusaders are hoping the momentum rolls right into 2014.