ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Tabor coach Tim McCarty knew at least two things about his Bluejay football team heading into the 2000 season.
One, his new recruits would make this year’s team better than last year’s.
Two, those same recruits, as young as they are, would make mistakes that come with inexperience.
Both assumptions proved true in the Bluejays’ 31-6 season-opening loss to Colorado College Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Unlike most games last year, this one was no first-half blowout. The Bluejays played the NCAA Division III Tigers to a statistical standoff during the first two quarters.
Tabor trailed 17-6 at intermission, but both Tiger touchdowns were scored on short fields caused by the Jays’ offensive lapses.
After stopping the Tigers’ opening drive, Tabor started their first possession on their own 5-yard line. The offense failed to move the ball, forcing Dylan Pohlman to punt out of his own end zone. Colorado’s Andy Cornell returned the ball 17 yards to the Tabor 21-yard line.
The Tigers scored six plays later on a six-yard pass from quarterback Chris Witt to Tim Wolfmeyer.
After Pohlman hit a 23-yard field goal with 2:59 left in the first quarter to make the score 7-3, Colorado’s Jake Latka picked off a Travis Davis pass at the Tabor 30-yard line, and returned it to the 19.
Three plays later, Witt hit Wolfmeyer again, this time from 16 yards out, to put the Tigers up 14-3.
Late in the second quarter, Tabor drove from their own 33 to the Colorado 14. After three straight incomplete passes from Davis, the Bluejays settled for a second field goal from Pohlman to make the score 14-6 with 44 seconds left in the half.
Unfortunately for Tabor, the Tigers used the time effectively, driving the field on the running and passing of Witt to add a 32-yard field goal as time ran out.
Colorado managed its only long-distance scoring drive of the game late in the third quarter, going 71 yards on seven plays. This time Witt found Cornell in the end zone from 26 yards out on a third-and-19 play.
The Tigers scored their last touchdown of the game five plays after recovering a Harvey Scruggs fumble on the Tabor 45. A 35-yard run by Paul Sage set up his one-yard touchdown plunge with 10:15 left in the game.
“I think their age was key today,” McCarty said. “They were more sure, we were still unsure. We still have some kinks to work out.”
One of those kinks is the ground attack. The Jays managed only 89 rushing yards on 31 carries. Scruggs led Tabor with 61 yards on 19 attempts.
The Jays moved the ball more effectively through the air, though, rolling up 186 yards on a collective 17 completions in 43 attempts.
Davis, a 6-5 freshman from Wichita, was 16-37 for 180 yards in his college debut, but threw two interceptions. Matt Insley, a freshman from Hays, was 1-for-4 in relief, but also threw one to the opposing team.
“I think we were unsure still at quarterback, but we’re playing young kids,” McCarty said. “We overthrew some open receivers and simply missed some of them.”
The second-year coach was disappointed with the loss and the mistakes, but pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“We had to have a mark of where we were at with our program,” he said. “We had guys in position to make plays. One of these days we’ll have a mature team that can make those kinds of plays.”
Four former Hillsboro Trojans started in their first game as Bluejays. Wide receiver Tyson Ratzlaff caught three passes for 39 yards before a hard hit late in the second quarter left him dazed and out of action for all but the first series in the second half.
Chad Duerksen started at defensive end and recorded one solo tackle and six assists. Lance Unruh had two solo tackles and three assists at middle linebacker. C.J. Hill started at safety and assisted with one tackle.
This Saturday, Tabor travels to Newton to play their traditional rivals, the Bethel College Threshers. Game time is 7 p.m.