Football starts its quest to defend the Pioneer Football League title this weekend ,coming off a win at the home opener Sept. 18.
The Bulldogs defeated Taylor, 28-20, behind junior quarterback Andrew Huck. Huck threw for 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
A crowd of over 4,000 turned out to watch the Bulldogs in their first game at the newly renovated Butler Bowl.
Huck got off to a slow start, completing just one of his first six passes. He recovered though, connecting on 28 of his next 32 attempts.
The Taylor Trojans (1-2) struck first, leading 7-0 after the first quarter.
Butler answered quickly on its next offensive possession.
Huck commanded an 11-play, 72-yard drive. Senior Scott Gray’s touchdown run capped off the drive that included back-to-back 18-yard passes from Huck to junior wide receivers Jordan Koopman and Jeff Larsen.
On Taylor’s next possession, Butler’s defense stepped up and forced a quick three and out and Huck led the offense back onto the field.
This time it didn’t take nearly as long for Butler to strike. One play is all the Bulldogs needed.
Huck hurled a long pass towards the left sideline that senior wide receiver Eddie McHale was able to haul in.
“Both of our receivers came back and said they could beat the corners off the ball,” Huck said.
The 46-yard touchdown pass was Huck’s longest completion of the day and put Butler on top, 14-7.
Just before halftime, another Butler wide receiver, junior Zach Watkins, found his way into the scoring column.
A Watkins’ catch put the Bulldogs in the red zone, and Huck found him again—this time in the end zone—putting Butler ahead 21-7.
“Basically, [Taylor] was just leaving me one-on-one on the backside,” Watkins said.
The Bulldogs dominated the first half largely in part to Huck, who threw for 245 yards in the first two quarters.
“Andrew is outstanding,” Butler head coach Jeff Voris said. “He gets better every week.
“The thing is he’s never satisfied. He is always working and his preparation is outstanding,” Voris added. “That’s why he performs the way he does.”
The Butler defense also put out a strong performance.
The Bulldogs pressured Taylor’s quarterback all day, limiting him to just three completions in the first half.
“What their offense was set around was a lot of slide protection and three step drops,” junior defensive end Grant Hunter said. “When you see that, the best thing you can do is get your hands up and create confusion for the quarterback.
“That’s what we did. That’s what allowed everybody to get pressure on him.”
“We knew Butler was going to be a fast defense,” Taylor senior quarterback Shaun Addison said. “We saw on film that they were aggressive and we were hoping to capitalize on that through our passing game, but it just wasn’t there today.”
Taking advantage of a Butler turnover, Taylor cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 21-14.
Senior Matt Kobli fumbled to put Taylor in scoring position with three minutes left to play in the third.
On Butler’s next possession, Kobli ran for a touchdown to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to two scores.
With a little over five minutes to play, Addison led a methodical 11-play touchdown drive for Taylor. The score brought the Trojans to within eight, but they were never able to get back possession.
Despite the loss, Taylor head coach Ron Korfmacher recognized the special opportunity his players had.
“I thought Taylor did a good job of bringing a big crowd and we had a really great crowd as well,” Huck said following the game.
Voris also noted the electric atmosphere.
“It’s always a great atmosphere in the bowl but with the new stadium, there was more of a buzz,” Voris said. “It’s a place where our guys have a lot of pride in playing.
“We had a great crowd that was into it. You put all those things together, and it made for a great day.”
The defending Pioneer League Champions will kick off league play Saturday when they visit the San Diego Toreros.
Last season, the Bulldogs finished with a conference mark of 7-1, capturing a championship in the process.
“Being the defending champs, we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Voris said. “We have to prepare like champions and act like champions if we’re going to be able to withstand the league stretch.”
The game versus San Diego will kick off at 4:00 and can be heard on bigplayproductions.com.