ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE BRUBACHER
One team had a roster of 73. The other had a roster of 25.
Tabor College football fans over the years are used to seeing disparity in the size of teams. Typically, Tabor is the squad with the low numbers.
But Saturday the smaller crowd of players was on the visitors’ sideline. And it showed as the Bluejays set a school scoring record in pounding St. Mary 54-13 in Hillsboro.
Tabor head coach Tim McCarty was pleased with the win, but neither he nor his players showed much jubilation after stopping the undermanned St. Mary squad.
“It’s good to win,” McCarty said, “but I’ll smile when we get this turned. We still have a lot of work to do.”
This is St. Mary’s first year of football and their struggles have a familiar ring to McCarty.
“I’ve got sympathy for them,” McCarty said. “Last year we got beat by more than 50.”
The slow-moving game saw 101 passes thrown, 64 by the Spires. The St. Mary tosses were typically on short patterns and the 24 Spire completions netted only 187 yards.
Tabor’s passing attack gained 273 yards on 37 attempts and 22 completions. Freshman quarterback Travis Davis had all but one of the completions and threw for five touchdowns.
On St. Mary’s first possession of the game, punter Brett Bartmess managed only a low, seven-yard punt from deep in the Spires’ own territory, which Tabor’s Tim Pauls grabbed and downed at the 15.
On the Bluejays’ first offensive play, Davis found Tyson Ratzlaff in the corner of the end zone. Dylan Pohlman’s kick missed and, after, 36 seconds of play, Tabor led 6-0.
St. Mary tied the game on the next possession, culminating with a 40-yard touchdown run by quarterback Davis Hodam. The Spires’ kick failed as well and the score remained knotted 6-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bluejays took the lead for good on the first play of the second quarter when Nathan Funk collected a seven-yard toss from Davis for the touchdown. Pohlman’s kick made it 13-6.
The two teams punted the ball back and forth for eight possessions until Henry Cantu outran the Spires’ defenders to haul in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Davis with 4:13 left in the half. The extra point put Tabor ahead 20-6.
After the Tabor defense stopped St. Mary on the next possession, the Bluejays moved down the field to set up a 24-yard field goal by Pohlman and a 23-6 lead with 1:22 left.
Richard Wingate intercepted a Hodam pass two plays later and Davis hit Ratzlaff, who slid to the ground between two careening Spires defenders to catch the six-yard touchdown strike. Pohlman’s PAT with 16 seconds left provided the final point of the 30-6 halftime score.
Pohlman opened the second-half scoring with a 36-yard field goal on Tabor’s first possession of the third quarter. Davis again found Funk, this one for a 13-yard touchdown pass, the next time the Bluejays had the ball to put Tabor up 40-6.
Bluejay defensive back Ernest Garza returned a Hodam interception 41 yards for a touchdown before Hodam closed the Spires’ and third quarter scoring with a 30-yard pass to Corey Hamilton. The score was 47-13 after three quarters.
McCarty reined in the Bluejay passing attack in the second half and the Tabor ground game found the end zone when, after a 30-yard run by backup quarterback Matt Insley, Tyler Murphy scored from two yards out.
Funk led the Bluejay receivers with eight catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Ratzlaff also scored twice while catching four passes for 77 yards. Tyler Marsh had three catches and Cantu and Jeff MacKinnon had two each.
Davis scrambled for 31 yards to lead the Tabor ground attack. The Bluejays ran for 94 yards to 19 for St. Mary.
Tabor defensive backs keyed the Bluejay statistics with Garza earning seven tackles and C.J. Hill six and one assist. Chad Duerksen had five tackles and two sacks.
The Bluejays are 2-6 on the season, 2-5 in conference. They travel to Ottawa for a KCAC matchup Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m.
“They are No. 1 in the conference,” McCarty said. “But I promise you we’re going to go after them.”
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE BRUBACHER