“Our offense moved the ball very well, and we gained a whole lot of yards, the second most for one game in school history,” Gottsch said. “That reflects on the job the defense did getting the ball for us, and the score shows that our kickers had a big game.”
“It was a complete team effort,” he added.
Caleb Marsh caught six passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. The standout receiver now has 15 career touchdown catches and trails only Tyson Ratzlaff on the school’s career list.
Marsh’s 14th touchdown came on a 10-yard toss from Jason Aubrey 6:50 into the second quarter and left him temporarily tied with Steve Vogt for second place.
But the Tabor defense nearly stole the show, claiming eight takeaways to styme an otherwise brilliant performance by Panhandle’s freshman quarterback Andrew McGlory.
Marsh’s catch followed a first-quarter 30-yard field goal by Derik Martinez, and junior place kicker Kevin Carroll tacked on the point-after for a 10-0 lead.
The Bluejays chased starter Kevin Lauchland midway through the frame with fumble-forcing sacks on consecutive Aggie drives in the second quarter. Panhandle fumbled five times during the first half.
T.J. Jackson led the charge, forcing a fumble recovered by Tommy Phillips and recovering two fumbles in the second quarter. Teal Stutzman picked up a fourth late in the second.
On came McGlory at the 8:01 mark of the second, and the Bluejays had a tougher time catching him in the backfield. On his first pass of the game, McGlory connected with Chad Sauceda for 46 yards and fired a 16-yarder to Tyler Bennett to sustain the drive.
Brandon Ridgeway took the handoff two plays later and plowed into the end zone 5:33 before halftime. McGlory and Sauceda connected again for a 2-point conversion to pull within 10-8.
After the Aggies forced a punt, Tabor safety John-Mark Phelps grabbed the first of his two interceptions at the Panhandle 27 and returned it 25 yards to set up the next score.
An unsportsmanlike conduct personal foul flagged against the Bluejay defense added a degree of difficulty to the series, bringing the offense onto the field 17 yards from the end zone.
Aubrey scrambled 10 yards on second-and-12, and an incompletion on third down brought Carroll in for a 27-yard field goal and a 13-8 lead.
Ridgeway fumbled a handoff on the kickoff return and retreated to the Panhandle 5-yard line to recover his miscue.
Lance Baar caught McGlory from behind on the next play, forcing a fumble recovered by Jackson with 1:28 remaining in the half.
Starting six yards from paydirt, Aubrey threw to Phil Unruh in the middle of the end zone on the next play. Carroll came on again, and Tabor led 20-8 with 1:16 left in the second quarter.
With Aubrey manning the helm on offense, DeJaun Jones had shifted over to the defensive backfield. After the kickoff, Jones caught McGlory’s pass at the 45-yard line.
After three big-gainers—a 13-yard run by Demetrius Cox, a 14-yard catch by Marsh, and a 15-yard pass interference penalty—Carroll came on for a 22-yard field goal with six seconds left.
Despite the turnovers and a 23-8 halftime deficit, the Aggies battled back to within four points after intermission.
Phelps grabbed his second interception with 10:00 left in the third, setting up a 22-yard field goal—Carroll’s third of the game—7:46 into the period.
A long kickoff return and a 30-yard run by Ridgeway set the stage for a 4-yard touchdown pass from McGlory to Bennett at 3:13 later, making it 26-16.
Tabor’s next drive was stopped after five plays, and Carroll’s punt combined with a sharp tackle by Lance Stubbs to pin the Aggies 12 yards out of their own end zone.
Two 12-yard runs led to the strangest play of the night.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, McGlory threw to Eric Lucero for a 9-yard gain. But Tabor was flagged for two late-hit personal fouls on the play—one for roughing the passer, one for hitting the receiver out of bounds after the whistle.
When the officials finished marching off the yardage, the Aggies lined up just inside the Tabor 30-yard line.
The Bluejays committed a total of 10 penalties for 93 yards during the game.
McGlory completed a 19-yard pass to Chris Manross and Ridgeway ran 10 yards for the score on the third play of the fourth frame. Tabor denied the 2-point conversion attempt for a score of 26-22 with 14:31 to play.
On the next series, Tabor ran a dozen plays and overcame an illegal block penalty on first-and-goal that both wiped out a nifty run by Demetrius Cox and cost the Bluejays 10 critical yards.
But with Panhandle’s crowd still applauding the gain, Aubrey found Marsh open along the sideline for a 20-yard score. Carroll hammered home the point-after and Tabor led 33-22 with 9:57 to go.
Seth Mills killed the Aggies’ next drive with an interception—McGlory’s fourth errant throw of the game—and returned the ball to the Panhandle 28 to set up a 43-yard field goal by Martinez.
The Aggies managed only four yards on the next possession, opting for a fake punt that fooled neither Jackson nor Kyle Basinger, who hammered the runner to the turf at the line of scrimmage with 6:51 to play.
Aubrey broke loose for a 19-yard touchdown run 46 seconds later, making it 42-22 and effectively icing the game with 6:05 to play.
To their credit, the Aggies played through the final whistle. But the Bluejays forced a 3-and-out and killed most of the remaining clock on runs by Cox.
Cox, who checked out of the game after Panhandle called its second timeout of the half with 1:41 left in the game, finished with 220 yards on 33 carries. He also had a 40-yard catch-and-run, bringing his game total to 260—the second most yardage any player has totaled from scrimmage in school history.
On the next play, the Tabor second string added another touchdown—a 42-yard strike from Anthony Davis to Aaron Stepanek at the 1:34 mark and Martinez drilled the point-after.
It was Stepanek’s first touchdown catch as a Bluejay.
Panhandle found the scoreboard one last time with six seconds to go. A 63-yard spiral from McGlory hit Byron Smith in stride for a touchdown to set the final score at 49-28.
Carroll and Martinez combined for five field goals and 19 points—setting new school records for made field goals and scoring by kickers.
“I don’t want to sound greedy or negative, but when we get down into the red zone, we need to get more touchdowns instead of settling for field goals,” Gottsch said.
Tabor amassed 565 total yards and 36 first downs, averaging 5.9 yards on a school-record 96 offensive plays.
Coming—Tabor (1-2) visits Friends (2-1) with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. Saturday in Wichita.