An Ark Valley Chisholm Trail Division III title is likely on the line Friday night when McPherson and Buhler renew their rivalry.
Buhler has won three straight games after dropping their season opener at Goddard. All three Buhler wins have come against league opponents.
"One of our goals every year is to win league," Buhler head coach Steve Warner said. "We’re playing a good team, and a well-coached team. We’ll have to be ready to go."
McPherson, 2-0 in league, began the year 4-0 before last week’s 41-35 loss to De Soto. The Bullpups hadn’t been tested in their four wins, and head coach Jace Pavlovich believes his team will gain more from their loss than their four wins.
"That game was one of the better experiences playing football in the regular season that we’ve had," Pavlovich said. "It really didn’t even matter if we won or lost because we just wanted to play a good opponent. It was great to get that experience, and it will help Friday against Buhler."
Both coaches believe Friday’s game will be won in the trenches.
"Their offensive line is very good, maybe the best we’ve seen this year," Warner said. "They’re scoring a lot of points, and their defense is very solid and physical — it’s the same kind of McPherson team that we’ve seen the last couple of years."
The Crusaders have been running the ball extremely well behind their offensive line and running back Sam Elliott. In last week’s 41-21 win against Augusta, Elliott rushed for 366 yards.
"It starts with the offensive and defensive lines," Pavlovich said. "We’ll need to be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. This is true in every game, but especially true against Buhler."
Both sides agree that their players get a little extra juiced for a rivalry game like this.
"This is a rivalry that’s healthy for both sides," Pavlovich said. "We wake up in the morning in the summer ready to beat Buhler, and I know they do the same. People say there’s hatred, but it’s mutual respect for each other."
Currently, McPherson has a three-game winning streak against Buhler. The last time the Crusaders beat the Bullpups was the 2016 season opener.
"It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve won or lost this game, every year the record resets to 0-0," Pavlovich said. "We’re just excited to have the opportunity to play."
Friday’s game was originally scheduled to be played in Buhler. However, Buhler is not allowing spectators for athletic events at the moment, so both sides agreed to move the game to McPherson to allow limited spectators.
"Both sides talked about it and we agreed it was very important to allow parents to watch the game," Warner said. "It would be a shame to have to watch the game on stream, especially one of this caliber."