New coach but same aspiration for Bluejays

The 2006 Tabor College football team will feature a solid core of seniors from last year’s 11-1 team. Pictured are, back row (from left), Cody Dick, Grant Myers, Nick Hooper, Ben Ottoson, Bobby Hurd, Billy Hickman, John Markoutsas, John Garcia, Chris Cook; front row, Joe Hernandez, Nathan Owens, Ben Schmidt, Fraser Smith, Ricky Ishida, Garrett Bryant, Tevita Kolokihakaufisi, Aaron Jenkins, Alex Wallace.

With 44 new players to go with 58 returning players, Tabor College football coach Robert Rubel will be working hard to retain the team-first mentality that has been so effective for the Bluejays the last two years.

In 2005, the Bluejays posted impressive wins and, and piled up individual statistics as never before.

But the most important numbers to coach Rubel entering his first season at Tabor are those the team earned together.

On their way to an 11-1 overall record, with a perfect 9-0 mark in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Bluejays outscored their opposition, 457-216.

The offense averaged nearly 38 points per game and earned four first-team All-KCAC selections, three second-team selections and four honorable mentions.

The defense matched the intensity of the offense and allowed only 18 points per game en route to garnering two first-team All-KCAC selections, two second-team selections and seven honorable mentions.

In a speech to fellow coaches at the KCAC media luncheon earlier this month, Rubel talked at length about his team’s key departures: “We lost a lot of great people. We lost a lot of great football players and we lost a lot of great coaches…. We have a lot of replacing to do.

“And we have a lot of question marks. So we’re just going to grind every day and see what we can get done.”

Now that students have arrived on campus and Rubel has seen for himself the players available to him, he has a clearer portrait of what the 2006 team will be like.

“I really like our depth at offensive and defensive line,” Rubel said.

Senior linemen include Cody Dick, Grant Myers, Nick Hooper, Ben Ottoson, Bobby Hurd, Billy Hickman, John Markoutsas, Joe Hernandez, Chris Cook, Tevita Kolokihakaufisi and Alex Wallace.

On defense, Rubel said, “We’re athletic at linebacker and secondary.”

Senior Fraser Smith is a returning linebacker. On the offensive side of the ball, the Bluejays are deep in the backfield positions.

“We have five guys vying to fill the spot at running back, and three guys working for a fullback position,” Rubel said. “Experience at quarterback in returners Ben Schmidt and Ricky Ishida will be big for us.”

Ishida is a three-time All-KCAC selection.

The Tabor receiving corps includes seniors John Garcia, Nathan Owens, Garrett Bryant and Aaron Jenkins.

“We’re big and deep at wide receiver,” Rubel said.

Even on special teams, this fall’s Jays will be deep, according to Rubel.

“We have three kickers that can get the job done,” he said.

Rubel had two comments about his team’s depth: “We think we have good depth, and if we have it we’re going to use it.

“It isn’t easy being deep, but it is a good problem to have.”

Whether this year’s team can match or improve on last year’s performance is a matter that ultimately must be resolved on the field.

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