ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
Finishing off a team when you have a big lead is the No. 1 lesson for the Tabor football team to learn from Saturday’s 32-20 win over Sterling College, says coach Tim McCarty.
After posting 20 points in the first quarter, the Bluejays sat back as the Warriors outscored them 20 to 12 in the final three quarters.
“I think our players got comfortable,” McCarty said. “We haven’t figured out how to put people away. Once you win, you have to learn how to put people away.
“We’re very happy about being 2-0 considering we haven’t even played a complete ball game.”
The Sterling team came out head hunting in the first quarter.
A week after winning “NAIA Special Teams Player of the Week,” Tyler Marsh became a targeted man in the opening minutes.
While Marsh was awaiting a punt, a Warrior struck him prematurely under the chin with the crown of his helmet. Marsh receive a series of stitches at the hospital, and the Sterling player was flagged for a personal foul.
But Cameron Conant picked up where he left off last week, capping an eight-play drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. The extra-point kick was unsuccessful, but the Jays led 6-0 at the 11:13 mark.
After Tabor got the ball back about a minute later, quarterback Dave Hernandez connected with Tyson Ratzlaff for a 43-yard touchdown pass with 9:16 to go. This time the kick was good and the Bluejays led 13-0.
Hernandez added a 2-yard dive just inside the five-minute mark of the first quarter to give Tabor a 20-0 lead after the PAT failed.
In the second quarter, Hernandez scored again, this time from a yard out with 5:59 left before intermission. The Jays attempted a 2-point conversion but were unsuccessful. Tabor led 26-0.
Sterling added two quick touchdowns in the last three minutes of the half, running for one touchdown and passing for the other. The Warriors connected on a 2-point conversion on the first attempt, but failed on their second opportunity. Sterling trailed 26-14 at intermission.
The Warriors scored again mid-way through the third quarter on a pass, but failed on the 2-point conversion. Tabor still led, 26-20.
The Bluejays added a 34-yard touchdown reception from Hernandez to Ratzlaff to take control of the game. Conant failed to convert the 2-point conversion.
The Bluejays accumulated 320 yards of total offense-197 yards in the air and 123 on the ground.
Hernandez completed 12 of 32 passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Ratzlaff grabbed six passes for 125 yards, while Conant turned in another solid performance at tailback with 13 carries for 69 yards.
“We’re still running the football well,” McCarty said. “We are really balanced right now on the offensive side of the ball.
“I was really pleased with Tyson’s performance. It was good to see that combination (from Hernandez to Ratzlaff) hook up. We had five different receivers catch balls for us, which means we’re starting to spread the ball out.”
Defensively, Eli Kennedy led the Bluejays with seven solo tackles.
“Eli is developing into a better player every week,” McCarty said. “He’s very focused and that’s what has allowed him to become a better football player.”
All-American Jason Phelps snagged three interceptions and now has four total in two games. Willie Lopez and Jeremy Loewen each grabbed one interception.
Coming-Tabor is off to 2-0 start for only the second time in school history and the Jays are 1-0 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Tabor travels to North Newton this Saturday for a matchup with Bethel College. Game time is 7 p.m.