Winfield High School first-year head coach Monty Lewis took a confident football team into Friday night’s home game against state-power Buhler.
Despite holding the vaunted Crusaders to 18 points, the Vikings’ offense sputtered in an 18-7 loss in the AV-CTL D-III opener for both teams at Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
“Buhler is the most physical team I’ve seen in person or on film,” WHS coach Monty Lewis said. “I credit Coach (Steve) Warner his staff and certainly the players, but I felt like we matched that physicality for long stretches.”
The Vikings (2-1, 0-1 AV-CTL D-III) held Class 4A No. 5-ranked Buhler off the scoreboard in the first and fourth quarters, but gained just 210 yards of total offense to 331 for the Crusaders (2-1, 1-0).
Winfield actually held the lead just before halftime.
Reigning AV-CTL D-III Offensive Player of the Year Sam Elliott had seven of Buhler’s eight carries when he scored from five yards out with 6:56 left in the first half, but the extra point missed.
The Vikings took advantage when freshman Cale Lindenman took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 37 yards, setting up the Vikings at the Buhler 40-yard line. Senior tailback Ar’mon Acosta capped an eight-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal with 3:18 left before the half. Austin Bryant’s extra point appeared to put Winfield up 7-6 heading into halftime.
The Crusaders had other ideas.
Buhler quarterback Bradley Neill found Dalin Coffey on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 on the clock and in was the Crusaders who marched into halftime with a 12-7 advantage.
The Winfield defense held the Crusaders on their first drive of the second half, but punter Jeffrey Neill’s 34-yard punt pinned the Vikings back on their own 4-yard line.
That set up the heartbreaker.
Sophomore quarterback Landen Dupras’ pass on third-and-5 was intercepted by Jackson Childs, who returned it nine yards for a touchdown.
The Winfield defense clamped down in the second half, keeping the Crusaders off the scoreboard. Senior linebackers Gavin Turner and Daryus Reynolds stuffed fullback Colin Rolland for no gain on fourth-and-3 early in the fourth quarter, giving the Vikings the ball at the Buhler 44-yard line. But Dionte Campbell stepped in front of Dupras’ pass for an interception on Winfield’s first play from scrimmage.
The Vikings got the ball back and worked their way into the red zone. But on second-and-10, Dupras threw into the end zone, where Campbell was there for his second interception of the game.
“Offensively, turnovers really cost us the chance to win. One was deep in the red-zone,” Lewis said. “We won’t win games turning it over like that.”
Acosta finished with 85 yards on 21 carries. Dupras was 5-of-11 passing for 82 yards.
The Winfield defense held the Crusaders to 2 of 11 on third- and fourth-down conversions. Senior linebacker Parker Smith recorded a game-high 9 1/2 tackles, including seven solo.
“I thought our defense played very well. Missed tackles hurt, but I credit their running back — he’s pretty special,” Lewis said. “We gave up 12 points to a highly ranked, well-coached football team. The fluky interception by the D-lineman accounted for the last score — can’t put that on the defense.”
Elliott amassed 171 yards on a workman 31 carries. Neill was 6-of-9 passing for 106 yards.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Vikings, who play this coming weekend at 4A No. 4-ranked McPherson. The Bullpups (3-0, 1-0) defeated Great Bend 34-19 in nonleague action Friday.
“Our football family took the loss hard due in point because we expected to play well and win the game,” Lewis said. “Taking a loss hard isn’t a bad thing — frankly, I wanted to see the looks I saw and now I’ll expect to see those looks when we come up short on the scoreboard down the road. It’s part of the process that we continue to build.”
Statistics provided courtesy Matt Shelton.
Buhler 18, Winfield 7
Buhler 0 12 6 0 — 18
Winfield 0 7 0 0 — 7
B — Sam Elliott 5 run (kick failed), 6:56.
W — Ar’mon Acosta 3 run (Austin Bryant kick), 3:14.
B — Dalin Coffey 33 pass from Bradley Neill (pass failed), 1:48.
B — Jackson Childs 9 interception return (kick failed), 4:50.
First Downs 19 12
by Run 13 6
by Pass 6 6
by Penalty 0 0
3rd Down Conv 2-9 4-9
4th Down Conv 0-2 1-3
Rush Att-Yards 41-225 34-128
Passing Yards 106 82
Pass Comp-Att-Int 6-9-0 5-11-3
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-4 0-0
Int Ret-Yards 3-9 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Kick Ret-Yards 2-43 4-111
Punt Ret-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punts No-Avg Yards 5-30.0 1-36.0
Penalties-Yards 8-66 3-25
Time of Poss 27:28 20:32
RUSHING — Buhler, Sam Elliott 31-171, Bradley Neill 4-43, Colin Rolland 4-12, Dalin Coffey 1-0, team 1-(minus 1). Winfield, Ar’mon Acosta 21-85, Parker Smith 2-17, Landen Dupras 7-10, Lance Austin 1-8, Justyce Tate 3-8.
PASSING — Buhler, Bradley Neill 6-9-0 106. Winfield, Landen Dupras 5-11-3 82.
RECEIVING — Buhler, Colin Rolland 2-46, Dalin Coffey 2-43, Brock McCurdy 1-12, Sam Elliott 1-5. Winfield, Ar’mon Acosta 2-33, Kyan Towles 2-33, Parker Smith 1-16.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.