Andale head coach Gary O'Hair put his head in hands more than a couple of times Friday night.
When Buhler's Riley Allen returned a kickoff after Andale had just scored a touchdown in the third quarter, it looked like curtains for the Indians.
"You drop your head for just one second out there, and it's over with," O'Hair said after the game. "You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself."
But when Jared Smarsh threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Bugner and led a drive for a Hunter Knoblaugh touchdown, Andale had a 36-31 win over Buhler on the first night of District play.
Andale (6-1) came back from an 11-point deficit, and held the Crusaders scoreless in the fourth quarter.
"We told the players - we gotta get a drive going, we gotta get a drive going to get some momentum and the bought into that," O'Hair said. "It would have been so easy for them to let down just a little - and if you let down against a team like that, it's over. And we didn't."
With dense fog rolling in after the afternoon rains Friday, Buhler came up short on their first possession and forgot to block Luke Brand on a punt. Brand blocked the punt and Gerad Deaver was there to scoop it up and get Andale on the board first, 6-0.
Buhler (4-3) answered back after a big run from quarterback Luke Berblinger, they notched a field goal to cut the lead in half, 6-3 at the end of the first quarter. This is where things started getting interesting.
Junior running back Riley Allen finally broke out for a signature long run in the second quarter, going 58 yards for his first of three touchdowns against Andale. He broke his second after a great 16-yard run to the one-yard line before scoring on the next play, leading 17-6.
With just minutes before halftime, Andale needed a spark. Bugner provided it on the ensuing kickoff. Biding time behind his blockers, Bugner waited until a hole emerged and he busted an 85-yard touchdown. After the two point conversion, Andale trailed 17-14 heading to the lockers.
"There were a couple of times things didn't look good," said O'Hair. "Buhler's got an explosive team and we were down, considerable, a couple of times and down most of the night. But I can't tell you how proud I am of how they fought out there."
So if you are keeping track, the first half scores: blocked punt, field goal, 58-yard run, one-yard dive and 85-yard kickoff return. The second half would provide what was missing.
Berblinger would strike first for Buhler in the third with a 16-yard quarterback keeper, giving Buhler a 24-14 lead. It looked like the game would be whoever could keep their legs the freshest in this track meet. That was before O'Hair and Smarsh surprised the Crusader defense when Knoblaugh was wide open behind the secondary for a 58-yard touchdown pass. Again, spark found.
"The thing I like is we beat a team like Buhler with several different people - it wasn't just one person, we threw the ball to a lot of people tonight. We really do have a lot of weapons."
Problem was, Buhler had their own in Allen. He busted right thru the wall of blockers on the enusing kickoff, going nearly untouched for 79 yards and a 31-20 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter. With just a little less than two minutes left in the third, Smarsh went back to the air and threw a great pass to Bugner in the fog for a 42-yard touchdown. Smarsh connected with tall Ben Seiler on a jump ball pass for the two point conversion, and Andale only trailed 31-28 heading to the fourth.
"Buhler was doing a good job of coming up and stopping the run and we just wanted to pound it out on them but when you (throw it more), you hope you can take advantage of it. We have some good athletes out there, they did a good job."