ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
Behind a defense that didn’t allow a touchdown all afternoon, the Tabor Bluejays picked up their third win of the year in a 25-0 win over Sterling College.
The win marks the first shutout pitched by a Tabor defense in 23 years and the Jays’ first homecoming win since 1993.
“(The shutout) is a big confidence builder for our kids,” head coach Tim McCarty said. “We had to get a monkey off our back, and it’s good for us to get back in the win column.”
The Bluejays held the Warriors to only 11 yards rushing and 69 yards passing.
McCarty elected to go with sophomore David Hernandez at the quarterback spot. Until this game, Hernandez had been watching Willie Lopez from the sidelines most of the season except for a few late-game appearances.
“You’ve got to be patient and you can’t rush things,” Hernandez said afterward. “I got my shot and I thought I did all right. It’s just how things go sometimes.”
Hernandez made good of his first start, throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 18 completions.
The sophomore from Junction City was picked off twice by the Warriors, but will likely be the Bluejay starter next week against Kansas Wesleyan, according to McCarty.
“He did a good job in there,” McCarty said. “He was a little frustrated with his own performance, and that’s what you want to see out of your quarterback.
“I appreciate the same things in him that I appreciate in Willie,” McCarty added. “They are both quality young men, they’re both leader-type kids and they don’t get frustrated.”
Tabor’s offense got off to a shaky start early in the ball game, but got a little help from Sterling’s offense.
The Bluejays failed to score on their first possession as Dylan Pohlman’s 37-yard field goal sailed wide left.
Sterling, in the shotgun formation, bobbled three consecutive snaps and the third one proved costly for the Warriors as the ball sailed over quarterback Terry Harrison’s head.
Harrison batted the ball out of the back of the end zone to avoid a Tabor touchdown and the Bluejays led early in the game, 2-0.
The Bluejays scored on their next series when Tyson Ratzlaff hauled in a pass from Hernandez that was tipped by a Warrior defender.
Pohlman connected on the extra point and the Bluejays led 9-0 with 7:01 left in the first quarter.
Later in the second period, Hernandez found a leaping Nathan Funk in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. Pohlman added the extra point and the Bluejays led, 16-0.
After holding the Warriors to three plays and a punt, Tabor added a field goal by Pohlman from 39 yards out and the Bluejays took a 19-0 lead into the locker room.
Both offenses came out shaky in the second half, exchanging the first three possessions until Ratzlaff broke open and took a Hernandez pass down to the Warrior goal line.
Hernandez dove into the end zone from one yard out for the final touchdown of the game. Pohlman missed the extra point, but the Bluejays led, 25-0.
Neither team scored in the final quarter of the game and Tabor marched off the field with a 3-3 record overall and a 2-3 record in the KCAC.
“Our kids were focused at the opening kickoff and we didn’t wait,” McCarty said. “We’re pretty tough at home.”
Tracy Wehrman led the defensive attack for Tabor with four tackles, two assists and one sack.
Chad Duerksen, Travis Stevens, Justin Friesen and Keith Herl each had one sack for the Bluejays.
Tabor will take on KWU at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, at Reimer Field.