Long Shots

In his third year as Tabor College head football coach, Tim McCarty and the Bluejays are staring at a critical season in Tabor’s football history.

Since the program began in 1969, the Bluejays have had one winning season. Through the years, Tabor has had seasons with several victories, including a year when they won half their games.

But after a 3-7 season last year, the Bluejays are on the doorstep of success. The question is not, “Will they knock on the door?” Teams throughout Tabor’s history have done that. The real question will be, “Will the door open?”

I have followed the Bluejays for some 20 years now. I have seen Bluejay teams do amazing things in the midst of what has often been discouraging to Tabor players and fans.

In the mid-1990s the Bluejays flirted with a winning season before ending with a .500 record. The next year, the door slammed in their face again.

Throughout the years, I have watched most Tabor teams fold when opportunities presented themselves. Not for their lack of effort, but rather their lack of guidance.

I think this year’s Bluejays will dispel the notion that history has to repeat itself. Since his arrival at Tabor more than two years ago, Coach McCarty has built new football program for Tabor.

Forget the new strength and conditioning facility and the new field he has spearheaded. McCarty has built a sense of pride and respect for Tabor football.

Fans who once harbored doubts in their heart are finding hope that the day may be approaching when the Bluejays will rise above the competition.

Coach McCarty, his staff and his young players have adopted a fearless mentality-a mentality that has most Tabor fans and players anxious for the season. But fans have also developed a “wait-and-see mentality” for this season.

McCarty has said on many occasions that his team is two or three years away from being where he wants them to be. He has said they are still young and inexperienced at many positions.

But I believe this year the Bluejays will discover exactly who they are, whether they win or lose.

Last season, the Bluejays stunned just about everyone when they upset Bethany College, one of the top teams in the conference.

A decade or so ago, Kansas State University struggled with its past much like Tabor College has. Today, the Wildcats are one of the nation’s elite teams.

Building a football program takes time. Recruiting and retention all play a huge role in the process, and McCarty is scoring well on those fronts. The number of returning players has risen each year since McCarty’s arrival.

Whether Tabor advances beyond its tradition will be determined to a large degree by Coach McCarty. His no nonsense style is both respectable and invigorating in this era of so many hot-headed, cocky and self-serving athletes.

McCarty’s troops are on the doorstep. They will continue knocking as they have for the past 32 years.

This year, though, I have a hunch the Bluejays will turn the knob and walk through because they have a coach who can lead them there.

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