ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE BRUBACHER
After Tabor College’s meeting with Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina Saturday, it’s doubtful anyone will ever label the Bluejay’s Tim McCarty a conservative football coach.
Tabor threw the ball 60 times. They threw passes that were really laterals. A wide receiver threw a pass. They even threw a pass on a kickoff return. Plus, the Bluejays tried the onside kick twice.
All the razzle-dazzle failed to pay off, though, as the Coyotes stopped Tabor 37-24.
Still, the Bluejays had their chances to win the game and the outcome wasn’t decided until well into the fourth quarter.
Kansas Wesleyan had drubbed Tabor 72-0 last year and McCarty hoped to spark the Bluejays with the aggressive style of play-calling.
“We wanted to take chances and let them know they were in a football game,” he said. “We didn’t want to leave anything on the field.”
In the end, though, it was Kansas Wesleyan’s penchant for the big play that doomed the Bluejays.
After a scoreless first quarter, Tabor kicker Dylan Pohlman put the Bluejays on top 3-0 with a 31-yard field goal with 9:39 remaining in the first half.
Three possessions later, Kansas Wesleyan struck on the first play of the drive when Coyote quarterback T.J. O’Neil connected with Marcus Cressman on a 69-yard touchdown pass. Justin Dombroski’s kick put Kansas Wesleyan up 7-3 with 5:40 left in the half.
Tabor earned good field position on the kickoff when Tyler Marsh grabbed the kick and passed across the field to David Wingate. Wingate ran the ball to the 43-yard line. The Bluejay offense marched down to the Coyote 4-yard line before the drive stalled and Pohlman’s field goal try was blocked.
Five plays later, O’Neil again went deep, this time teaming with Robert Hampton for a 68-yard touchdown. The kick put the Coyotes up 14-3 which remained the margin at the half.
Kansas Wesleyan rolled up 231 yards in total offense in the first half, 137 of which came on the two touchdown passes.
Tabor struck on the first possession of the second half when, after a four-play drive, Bluejay quarterback Travis Davis hit Tyson Ratzlaff, who dove into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. After Pohlman’s kick, Tabor trailed 14-10 at 13:36 of the third quarter.
The Bluejays tried to surprise Kansas Wesleyan with an onside kick, but the Coyotes successfully covered the attempt.
Despite the good field position, Tabor stopped Kansas Wesleyan on the next drive. But on the fourth down punt, Tabor was whistled for a rare roughing-the-long-snapper penalty, which gave the Coyotes a new set of downs.
The momentum swung back to Kansas Wesleyan when O’Neil connected with Hampton again, this time for a 25-yard score.
After the kickoff, Davis passes to Marsh, Jeff MacKinnon and Ratzlaff, plus a Davis run, moved the ball to the Coyote 10-yard line. The drive ended when Davis was intercepted by Fred Sassani.
A Davis interception on Tabor’s next possession led to a Dombroski 25-yard field goal with 4:51 remaining in the third. Two drives later the Coyotes concluded the third quarter scoring with a 35-yard pass to Bobby Rehse from Jason Wilmot, who was subbing for the injured O’Neil.
Kansas Wesleyan led 31-10 after three quarters.
Tabor opened the fourth quarter with a lateral from Davis to wide receiver Nathan Funk who pitched the ball 41 yards down the field to Henry Cantu.
Davis connected twice more with Funk on the drive and once with Marsh before sealing the effort with 16-yard strike to Cantu. Pohlman’s kick brought the Bluejays to within 14 points, 31-17.
The Coyotes answered on their next possession, again through the air, when Wilmot found Cressman for a 30-yard touchdown.
Five possessions later, Tabor ended the scoring in the game when reserve quarterback Matt Insley snuck the ball into the end zone for a touchdown with 1:19 left in the game. Kansas Wesleyan recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Davis, operating for most of the day out of a deep shotgun formation, threw 59 passes in the game, completing 29 for 362 yards and two touchdowns. He also suffered five interceptions.
With Funk’s one completion, Tabor amassed 403 yards passing in the game, the the same number as Kansas Wesleyan did on 27 attempts.
Seven Bluejay receivers caught passes, led by Ratzlaff’s eight grabs for 120 yards. Marsh and MacKinnon each had six catches and Funk, Cantu and Cameron Conant had three.
Neither team had much success on the ground. The Coyotes earned 111 yards and Tabor only 17. Funk led the Bluejay rushing attack with 20 yards, all of which came on lateral screen plays.
Despite the loss, McCarty was upbeat about his team’s performance.
“We’re getting better, we’re not getting worse,” he said. “The best thing we did, both offensively and defensively, is we went after them.
“Our kids’ character was so good today. And that’s why we’re going to win eventually. We’re so close to being there.”
Tabor hosts KCAC newcomer St. Mary Saturday. Game time is 1:30 p.m.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE BRUBACHER