Special teams and a special night by senior quarterback Austin Laing added up to 48-6 Buhl varsity football victory over visiting Wood River Friday at Bowers Field, Buhl.
Laing (6-for-11, 127 yards plus 23 yards rushing and 1 TD) threw four touchdown passes and the Tribe converted three Wolverine turnovers into TDs. A seemingly close game between two longtime rival programs turned into a rout.
Buhl (3-0, averaging 42.0 ppg) stayed unbeaten while Wood River (2-2) saw its modest two-game winning streak end.
Much like last year's grid meeting between the two teams on the same field that ended in a 27-7 Buhl triumph, Friday's game was statistically even but lopsided in areas that ultimately count—physical dominance and crucial mistakes.
Wood River had four turnovers and a collapse on special teams. Buhl, in contrast, handled the ball flawlessly, made big plays when needed and used fiery play by its special teams unit to fuel momentum.
It didn't hurt to have two players like Laing and senior Will Chivers to key the charge. Meanwhile, Wood River's offensive line was hampered by an injury that kept 6-4, 285-pound senior Corbin Miniard on the sideline.
Buhl was strong and Wood River shaky from the start.
A shanked Wood River punt gave Buhl good field position at the Wolverine 28 and Laing scored the first TD on a quarterback plunge. Ryon Sirucek's 66-yard gallop through a huge hole on a counter play made it 13-3, then Laing threw a 19-yard TD pass after a Wood River turnover on a dropped punt.
Cory Rutkowski's first-half field goals covering 34 and 35 yards limited Buhl's halftime lead to 20-6, similar to last year's 20-0 Buhl halftime lead on a night when Wood River committed five turnovers.
Wood River's defense started blitzing in the second half, which gave Laing an opportunity to find 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver Chivers (4 catches, 85 yards) for a 53-yard TD connection on a roll-out pass. Within a minute Buhl's lead grew to 34-6 when Wood River fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Laing hit Chivers from 10 yards out.
The Wolverines had 155 of their 193 rushing yards in the second half, much of the yardage coming against Buhl's reserves. Late in the fourth quarter the Hailey boys put together their best drive, a 10-play, 60-yard, five-minute attack. It ended on an interception that Buhl's Nathan Romans returned 97 yards for a score.
It was that kind of night, but Buhl deserved all the credit for its composure and game plan.
Wood River junior Matt Libert (21 rushes, 111 yards) and senior Grayson Thompson (10 carries, 69 yards) chewed up much of the yardage behind an offensive line that for the most part gave quarterback Danny Kramer plenty of time to throw.
Kramer (10-for-27, 126 yards, 2 interceptions) had his best success finding senior Danny Ward (5 catches, 90 yards). But Wood River turned in a listless effort on both sides of the ball.
It was Buhl's fifth consecutive football win over Wood River and the Tribe now leads 28-9 in the 37-game series. The Wolverines, having won only three of their nine games at Bowers Field, haven't beaten Buhl since their last winning season, 5-4 in 2000. That was a 35-20 Wolverine win in Hailey.
Homecoming game Friday
Next, Wood River hopes to turn things around during its 2006 Homecoming football game Friday, Sept. 22 starting at 7 p.m. at Phil Homer Field.
The Kimberly Bulldogs (1-2) will be visiting, coming off their 47-33 loss last Friday to the Valley Vikings at Eden. Kimberly has won only three of its last 11 games over two seasons but the Bulldogs always come up with an inspired effort when they play Wood River.
Wood River and Kimberly last clashed on the gridiron in 2003, host Kimberly piling up 613 yards in total offense (455 rushing yards) in a 55-8 trouncing. The Wolverines committed seven turnovers in that one.
Kimberly leads the football series 14-11 and has won three consecutive games over Hailey. Wood River's last win was 31-8 back in 2000 on the Hailey field.
After Friday's Kimberly game, Wood River embarks on its Great Basin Conference West league schedule finishing the season with games at Burley and Jerome, then the home finale against the front-running Minico Spartans Oct. 20.