ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
“We are frustrated,” Tabor College coach Tim McCarty said Saturday afternoon after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Saint Mary College, 22-15, at Reimer Field.
“None of us are happy,” McCarty added. “We had plenty of opportunities today.”
Dropped and overthrown passes, failure to take advantage of opportunities to score were key factors that resulted in Tabor’s third-straight loss this season, and the first loss to Saint Mary since the Leavenworth school started football three years ago.
Initially, it looked as if Saint Mary and Tabor, who were second and third, respectively, in the KCAC in passing offense, would have an old-style offensive shoot-out.
The Spires, on their first series from scrimmage, marched 82 yards in nine plays and scored on a 1-yard dive at the 9:58 mark of the first quarter. The point-after kick gave Saint Mary a 7-0 advantage.
On Tabor’s first play from scrimmage, David Hernandez connected with freshman wide receiver Layne Frick for a 74-yard touchdown pas. Keenan Morris kicked the extra point to tie the game.
But the early offensive burst quickly dried up and the game became battle between two offenses that couldn’t move the ball against the other team’s defense.
Neither team scored in the second quarter, and the Bluejays and Spires retired to the locker room still tied at 7-7.
The third quarter resembled the one before it-and even more like Tabor’s game with Friends University last Saturday, when neither team was able to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
The Bluejays pinned the Spires inside their own 10-yard line three times in the third quarter, but Tabor was unable to produce any offense even though it started its own drive inside Saint Mary’s 40-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, on a fourth and long, the Bluejays’ punt team called an audible at the line of scrimmage. Matt Insley received Preston Neufeld’s snap, sped to the right side of the line and pitched it back to Morris, who was met by a host of Spire defenders.
The Spires took possession of the ball on Tabor’s 38-yard line and marched seven plays for a touchdown at the 12:29 mark of the final quarter. Saint Mary converted the 2-point conversion and led 15-7.
With time and opportunities ticking away, the Bluejays finally got a break offensively when Steven Weltmer took a Hernandez pass 46 yards down the sideline to set up Olando Harris’ 7-yard touchdown.
On the 2-point conversion attempt, the Bluejay quarterback stretched over the goal line to tie the game at 15 with 4:09 remaining in the game.
Neither team was able to score the rest of the way, forcing the game into overtime.
After winning the coin flip, the Bluejays elected to defend. The Spires made good on their opportunity, scoring on a 12-play drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run.
After the successful extra point, the Bluejays were left to equal or better the Spires’ touchdown and extra point. But on their final series, the Jays ran two pass plays for two yards and two incomplete passes to end the game.
Even with its inability to score, Tabor did roll up 382 total yards on offense-the majority coming in the first half.
Hernandez finished the game completing 10 of 43 passes for 245 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Frick finished with three catches for 97 yards, his best day as a Tabor receiver.
Harris led the team in rushing with 73 yards on 18 carries and scored one touchdown.
Jake Schenk spearheaded the Bluejay offense with nine solo tackles and two tackles for a loss. Jason Phelps protected his KCAC lead in interceptions by grabbing one more. Jared Johnson also had an interception.
Coming-The Jays are 4-3 overall and 3-3 in the KCAC. They travel to Ottawa Saturday to take on the Braves. Game time is 1:30 p.m.