SIDELINE SLANTS- Tabor’s football season of 2005 will be difficult to duplicate

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Sports columnists are expected to go out on a limb from time to time, but I’ll state the obvious and say that this was the best football team in Tabor’s history.

The Bluejays had a best-ever record of 11-1, including their one and only unbeaten season in the KCAC. Throw in a first-round NAIA playoff victory over Graceland in November, and there’s very little room for debate.

Unlike last year’s championship team that won a lot of close games, this year the Bluejays’ closest regular-season game was an 11-point win. They flat dominated most of the competition.

It’s not surprising, then, that this year’s team set numerous team and individual records. The team set season records for most total yards, most rushing yards, most yards per carry, best passing completion percentage, most points, most touchdowns, most rushing touchdowns and best kickoff return average.

Tabor also set single-game records for most total yards, most rushing yards, most passing yards, most rushing touchdowns and most touchdowns. It’s fair to compare the stats to a broken record.

Team success usually equates with a measure of individual success.

Quarterback Ricky Ishida has many firsts in career categories including total offense, total plays, pass attempts and completions, passing yards, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passing touchdowns. He also made what I believe was the first public wedding proposal by a Tabor football player before a homecoming game.

Running back Roger Butler has raised the bar with the following football records at Tabor, career yards, career scoring and career rushing touchdowns. He also set the following single-season records – most rushing yards and scoring – and single-game records for rushing yards and points scored, while rushing for 100-yards in eight games.

But the defense didn’t rest, particularly Jake Schenk. He wrapped up a remarkable career by establishing career marks at Tabor in solo tackles, total tackles, tackles for a loss, and a record for most tackles in a season for a loss.

Is it any wonder why so many Tabor players and coaches landed on the All-KCAC team this year?

All that’s left for longtime Tabor fans to ponder is how many players on this year’s team were the best in school history. That’s hard to say, because you’re comparing statistics from one era to another.

Secondly, how many people have followed Tabor’s football program since its inception?

In my opinion, the best player to ever wear a Tabor uniform was Rolland “Bay” Lawrence. He played running back, quarterback and defensive back at Tabor and became an All-Pro defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons.

If Lawrence would have played behind this year’s offensive line, probably Tabor’s best ever, his numbers would have been staggering.

Running back Roger Butler was outstanding and he has to be at least the second-best all-time back at Tabor.

Ishida is probably the best all-around quarterback in school history, although Rodney Wallace also was very good. Tabor has had a few other capable quarterbacks, but they played on such bad teams that it is hard to evaluate them accurately.

I’d call Tyson Ratzlaff and Kerry Denison Tabor’s best wide receivers all-time, but this year’s group was very strong and deep and may have been the best group collectively.

In my mind, Tabor’s best defensive lineman ever was Chad Duerksen, and the best linebacker in history was Jake Schenk. You could make a case that pound for pound, Schenk was the best defensive player ever to play at Tabor.

Was this the best defense overall? That’s hard to say. The defensive unit a couple of years ago was at least equally as strong, but this year’s unit ranks among the best.

I’d say that Tabor’s best defensive backfield athletically was in the late ’60s when Dennis Fast, Ron Klaassen and Don Wohlgemuth were in the secondary. They had good size and speed. They also were among the nation’s best in pass defense. Of course, the front seven was so weak at stopping the run that no one had to pass.

In no way is this list complete, and there are probably some oversights, but at least it provides some fodder for Tabor football fans to chew on. And it’s always more fun chewing after back-to-back conference titles.

Records are made to be broken, but it’s going to be hard to break these records.

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