Blujays snag another hometown hero

Tabor College may have gotten a two-in-one package Monday with the signing of Hillsboro High School all-state senior Tyson Ratzlaff to play football for the Bluejays next season.

Not only will Ratzlaff bring to the team his superb athletic ability and excellent on-field awareness, but he?ll also generate some hometown interest.

Along with fellow HHS alums Chad Duerksen and Nathan Funk, Tabor will have a definite Trojan flare next season.

?I?m just happy to be a part of an up-and-coming program,? Ratzlaff said after signing his letter of intent.

Staying in Hillsboro offered other incentives for the Hillsboro native as well.

?His mom is his No. 1 fan, and I know she will be excited to be able to see Tyson play next year,? said Dustin McEwen, HHS head football coach. ?He is going to be close to his family and I know that is important to him.?

Ratzlaff said family and friends were a key factor.

?I get to be close to home and stay close to my family and friends,? he said. ?That was a part of my decision.?

Keeping Ratzlaff in town was a big step for Tabor football, as coach Tim McCarty, now beginning his second year at the helm, aims to turn around a program that has floundered for most of its existence.

?I think a kid like Tyson can come in and be a big part of this team,? McCarty said. ?He is a tremendous player, the (Class) 3A offensive player of the year, according to Kansas Sports magazine and has amazing ability to make the great catch and make the big play. He is a phenomenal athlete.?

But Ratzlaff brings a lot more to the program than simply his athletic ability, McCarty said.

?He is a great kid,? he said. ?He is a good student and I think that will help make him successful here at Tabor.?

Tabor is fortunate to get a player such as Ratzlaff, McEwen said, because the senior wide receiver could have played at a bigger school if he would have wanted to.

?I think he has the skills to play at an Emporia State or a Fort Hays State, and maybe even down the line at a Big 12 school,? McEwen said. ?But at the same time, Tyson is going to a program where he knows the situation, and he is going to bring a lot of excitement to Tabor.?

With the community behind him, Ratzlaff is bound to be a success next season for the Bluejays.

?There?s nothing I?d like more than to see Nathan Funk catch a pass, and know Chad Duerksen is there also,? McEwen said. ?I?m looking forward to next season and being able to see Tyson play.?

Speculation has run high on why Ratzlaff would choose a team that this past fall was clearly at the bottom of the KCAC barrel.

But Ratzlaff?s desire to win will immediately make an impact on the program as it did on his high school program, McEwen said.

?People didn?t think Hillsboro High School football would be successful either,? he said. ?But look at where we are now.?

McCarty said with players like Ratzlaff believing in the Tabor philosophy, the program is bound to make a change for the better in the near future.

?It is decisions like this that are going to help turn this program around,? he said. ?We are going to be young next year, and truthfully, we are not going to turn around an entire program in a year.

?I wish I didn?t have to say that, but with what I inherited here, it?s just a fact,? McCarty said. ?This is a big step in the right direction. I feel like we are going to have several impact players here next year, and that is key.?

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