ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE BRUBACHER
Experience once again proved itself superior to youth in the Tabor College football team’s 54-7 loss to Bethel College in Newton Saturday.
The youthful Bluejays made mistakes early and often and the senior-laden Thresher squad didn’t hesitate to capitalize.
The usual litany of football errors-sacks, fumbles, interceptions, dropped passes, and penalties-doomed the Tabor effort. The 54-point total was the most ever scored by a Bethel football team.
The game got off to a rocky start for Tabor when Bluejay quarterback Travis Davis was sacked and fumbled on the third play from scrimmage. The Threshers recovered the ball at the Tabor 18-yard line, but the Bluejay defense stiffened and Bethel was forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Chris Rico with 12:05 left in the first quarter.
Tabor went three-and-out on their next possession before Bethel marched down the field to take a 10-0 lead on Howard Walter’s 1-yard touchdown run at 8:09 in the first.
The Threshers were aided by a face-mask penalty on a fourth-and-one play on which it appeared that the Bluejay defense had held.
The two teams traded punts for the next four possessions before a punt snap sailed over the head of Tabor punter Tyler Marsh. Marsh collected the ball and was tackled at the 6-yard line with 9:07 left in the first half. Three plays later T.J. Helling scored on 5-yard pass from Brent Martens.
Bethel tallied two more touchdowns in the second quarter, one on a 1-yard run by Jay Odom and the other on a 5-yard pass from Brad Thimm to Zack Westhoff, to take a 30-0 lead at halftime.
Tabor cornerback Jared Johnson sparked the Bluejay defense on the first possession of the second half when he picked off a Thimm pass and returned the interception to the Bethel 16-yard line.
Tabor returned the favor three plays later when Davis was intercepted by Alex Carbajal.
Bluejay defender Richard Wingate blocked the subsequent Thresher punt, but Bethel again responded in equal fashion when Tabor kicker Dylan Pohlman’s 45-yard field goal was blocked moments later.
Bethel added three touchdowns in the third quarter. The first came on a 68-yard interception return of a Matt Insley pass by Chad Unrau, a Thresher freshman from Goessel. Walter scored on a 11-yard run and Martens reached the end zone on a 9-yarder later in the period.
Rico closed out the Bethel scoring with a 35-yard field goal with 8:20 left in the game.
On the next possession, Insley cheated the Thresher defense of the shutout when he broke loose on an option play to sprint 79 yards for Tabor’s lone touchdown. Pohlman added the extra point.
Tabor head coach Tim McCarty thought his squad lost ground from their 31-6 loss to Colorado College on the season’s opening weekend.
“We’re going through a process,” he said. “But we did take a step backward Saturday. Our enemies are on the inside. We’re battling youth. We’re battling expectations. It’s going to take some time. We have a lot to do. We have good players but they’re young.”
The Bethel roster lists 18 seniors while the Bluejays suit up only four.
Tabor struggled to move the ball on the ground, accruing only 87 net yards rushing, 79 of which came on Insley’s dash to the end zone. He had 94 of Tabor’s rushing yards.
“We couldn’t get anything established (on the ground),” McCarty said. “The last thing that gets established is the offensive line. Including the tight end we’ve got one sophomore and five freshmen on the offensive line.”
Despite the lop-sided loss, McCarty was encouraged by the Tabor defense.
“Our defense played pretty well,” he said. “You’d only understand that if you saw the game. They had to play on a short field so much.”
Tabor hosts nationally ranked Bethany College in Hillsboro Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m.