LAFAYETTE — Last season, opposing defenses keyed on Centaurus running back Matthew Buchler because they knew he was Warriors option A, B and C.
The idea in camp was to find someone who could divert the focus from Buchler, widely regarded as one of the top playmakers in Class 3A.
Well, it looks like they’ve found that option. His name is Matthew Axelrod.
The sophomore fullback bruised his way through the Fort Lupton defense Friday night at Warrior Stadium, offering a distinct changeup from the 5-foot-5 Buchler in the Warriors’ 46-6 season-opening win.
“I can’t even explain how nice it is to have someone else out there that people have to plan for,” said Buchler, who had a game for the ages on the defensive side with four interceptions. “They have to plan for (No.) 45 because he’s the man. I mean, he scored three touchdowns. You have to plan for him.”
The thunder-and-lightning duo combined for six touchdowns and 218 yards on the ground. The 5-10, 190-pound Axelrod rushed for 97 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, and also wreaked havoc from his linebacker position.
“Honestly, I think I did a good job tonight for my first varsity game,” Axelrod said. “And if I can be that other guy with Buchler, I think it could happen by midseason. He’s really, really good and I look up to him all the time.”
Although Axelrod performed like a seasoned veteran, don’t let the cool demeanor fool you.
“Beginning, I felt like I was going to puke, honestly,” he said. “I got in there and just had butterflies. . . . But first play I busted out for a run, and all the nerves just went away.”
As for Buchler, the 121 rushing yards and 50-yard TD might look good. Most of his biggest moments, however, came from his cornerback position, where he probably worked himself into the nightmares of Bluedevils quarterback Elijah Vargas.
Buchler returned two of his four interceptions for TDs, including one on an ill-fated shovel pass that he ran back for a 94-yard touchdown. That one came with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining before the half and staked Centaurus to a 20-0 spread at intermission.
He added a 21-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously we wanted to come out and establish Buchler, and that didn’t happen right away,” Centaurus coach Chad Senseney said. “But Matt Axelrod and our offensive line really had a lot of success in between the guards. We want to play that type of complementary football because they can’t stop it all.”
As for Buchler’s defensive night, Sensney said: “Four picks, I mean that’s unheard of. I don’t care what level you’re at, you don’t hear it. But that’s the type of kid Matt is.”
Buchler said he was simply “playing what I’ve been taught.”
The Centaurus defense also had a stellar opening night, with Matt Maierhofer and Michael DeVries controlling things along the line, allowing the linebackers to dart in for several key stops.
The only problem for Centaurus was 6-6 Fort Lupton receiver Owen Mellen, who caught seven passes for 103 yards and scored the Bluedevils lone touchdown.
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Centaurus 46, Fort Lupton 6
At Warrior Stadium
Fort Lupton 0 0 6 0 — 6
Centaurus 7 13 0 26 — 46
Centaurus — Matthew Axelrod 6 run (Shayne Albertson kick).
Centaurus — Axelrod 1 run (Albertson kick).
Centaurus — Matthew Buchler 93 interception return (kick blocked).
Fort Lupton — Owen Mellen 14 pass from Elijah Vargas (pass failed).
Centaurus — Axelrod 24 run (Albertson kick).
Centaurus — Buchler 50 run (kick failed).
Centaurus — Buchler 21 intecepton return (kick blocked).
Centaurus — Mac Post 47 run (Albertson kick).
RUSHING — Fort Lupton: Vargas 11-29, Padilla 1-53, Torrez 9-31, Chavira 5-2. Centaurus: Buchler 17-121, Axelrod 14-97, Post 4-66, LoSasso 4-5.
PASSING — Fort Lupton: Vargas 12-22-4-134. Centaurus: Cotter 2-6-0-40.
RECEIVING — Fort Lupton: Mellen 7-103, Chavira 2-10, Banuelos 1-11, Antuna 1-7, Padilla 1-3, Centaurus: Buchler 2-40.