McPHERSON — In the most important game of the year, the McPherson High School boys soccer team played its best game of the season.

On a freezing night, McPherson came out red hot en route to a 7-0 victory over Buhler on Tuesday in the opening round of the Class 4-1A Regional.

McPherson set the tone early by scoring five first-half goals. The Bullpups started the second half by scoring two quick goals from which Buhler was never able to recover.

Even with a large lead, McPherson kept applying pressure until the final whistle blew.

"We passed the ball on wet turf so well today," McPherson head coach Chris Adrian said. "It is not easy, but these guys made that game look so easy."

The two teams met on Oct. 13, and the Bullpups won a closer game, 3-1.

"They came out and put it to us early," Buhler head coach Bransyn Felty said. "We didn’t respond in the appropriate manner. Can’t take anything away from them, they had a game plan and they executed it and we didn’t respond."

Caden Hardgrave had a hat trick in the first half and finished with four goals total.

The junior midfielder booted a left-footed goal five minutes into the contest to begin the scoring. About seven minutes later, Hardgrave finished a nice spin move off with a goal in the 18-yard box to double the lead.

Senior Cody Achilles got in on the scoring fun with the first of his two goals with 21 minutes left in the first half. Achilles scored 10 minutes later to make it 4-0.

Hardgrave finished off his hat trick with a little over 8 minutes left in the first half with a hard-hit shot off Buhler goalkeeper Jax Frederick’s hands, which made it 5-0 at halftime.

"(Hardgrave) had a phenomenal game, some of the goals he scored tonight were excellent," Adrian said. "He could have had five or six goals tonight. He also passed the ball really well."

Any chance at a Buhler comeback was thwarted when McPherson’s Gavinn Henry scored off a corner kick from Connor Olson less than a minute into the second half.

Hardgrave concluded the scoring three minutes later with a point-blank goal right in front of the net.

"We know Buhler is tough and they were going to come out ready to go, and for us to score in the first minute, it kind of put the game away," Adrian said.

In the final 36 minutes, McPherson was able to get younger guys valuable varsity minutes in postseason action.

"Two of our players got their first varsity minutes tonight," Adrian said. "It was fun."

Buhler ends its season with a 5-10-2 record. The Crusaders graduate four seniors: Kayden Polk, Caden Stucky, Colton Stucky and Elijah Deviney.

"These seniors stepped up big when we needed some role models," Felty said. "A lot of them were in a lot of new positions that they probably didn’t feel comfortable playing, but I applaud them for stepping up and showing the younger guys what Buhler soccer is all about."

The Crusaders were a young team this season, and the experience they gained this season will hopefully pay dividends next year.

"At the beginning of the season, my assistant and I were wondering who we were going to play, because we had a lot of young guys and some older guys who were working hard," Felty said. "There was one point in the season when we had seven starters out due to injury, so we had a lot of young guys step up and play a lot of good minutes. It’s always beneficial when you can get that young core playing time and work toward the future as well."

McPherson improves to 10-7 on the year and travels to Berean Academy (11-3-1) for a regional championship at 4p.m. on Friday.

"It’s going to be tough and difficult," Adrian said. "They have a very difficult (grass) field to play on, it’s short and narrow. All this rain and snow we’re going to get, it’s going to be a sloppy mess. It won’t be a pretty game.

"We get another chance to practice and play. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, we just want the chance to play."