Bluejays fall at home to Sterling

Tabor College dropped another home game on Saturday, this time to the Sterling by a score of 20-7.

The Warriors passing attack struck for two unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter, giving them a commanding lead that enabled them to coast to a deceptively lopsided win at Reimer Field.

After Tabor’s opening drive stalled early, Sterling’s Napoleon Sanders returned the punt to the Tabor 42-yard line.

Sterling gained 30 yards on the next play-Jake Buchanan sold a fake handoff to Adam Langvardt, and fired a pass to Allan Stokes over the onrushing Bluejays secondary.

Buchanan found Stokes open again to convert a fourth down at the Tabor 11-yard line into a first down at the Tabor 8.

But the Bluejays kept the Warriors off of the scoreboard, stopping Sterling on fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard line. Neither team mounted a serious threat until the end of the quarter.

With under five minutes left, a 36-yard connection from quarterback DeJaun Jones to Aaron Jenkins moved the Bluejays into Sterling territory for the first time.

Jones and the option offense carried Tabor to the Sterling 22. A penalty moved the Jays back, but Jones found Nate Owens for 13 yards and a first down at the Sterling 14.

A fumble on the next play ended the drive and the quarter.

After the Tabor defense forced a Sterling punt to start the second quarter, Jones found Jenkins on the second play of the drive, and 20 yards later, the Bluejays were back in business.

A 12-yard completion to Caleb Marsh and a 15-yard personal foul against the Warriors moved the ball to the Sterling 17.

But Craig Mans recovered a fumble for the Warriors to end the drive.

“We shot ourselves in the foot too many times,” Tabor coach Robert Rubel said. “We had a questionable call that didn’t go our way, and things fell apart after that.”

Tyler Degenhardt came in at quarterback and nearly fumbled the ball right back to the Bluejays.

“The defense is playing really well, but we can’t turn the ball over and expect to win games,” Rubel said.

Degenhardt recovered from his mistake on the next play.

Sterling fans saw Bluejay defensive back Chris Waldrop in Josh Oberle’s hip pocket as they sprinted down the Tabor sideline; they saw Oberle stopping on a dime to haul in an underthrown pass from Degenhardt.

Tabor fans saw Oberle shoving the free safety out of the way to make the grab.

But the side judge’s opinion-questionable though it was-was the only one that mattered in that pivotal moment.

Seeing both players pushing the limits of the rules while trying to make a play, the officials threw no yellow flags onto the field.

The completion went for 69 yards and set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Degenhardt to Stokes that put the Warriors ahead 6-0 with 4:56 left in the half.

“We’ve got to figure out ways to rebound from those types of things, to find ways to turn momentum back to our side, keep from putting ourselves in bad situations,” Rubel said.

Sterling botched the point after, but Tabor failed to capitalize, fumbling the ball on its own 32.

Buchanan took advantage of the mistake, following up a 28-yard strike to Derrick Matthews with a 4-yard touchdown to Kevin Laudermilk.

“We’ve got a secondary that is new and inexperienced aside of (Andy Bartell),” Rubel said. “We’re going to load up and stop the run, and this was the first game that (an opponent) has managed to take advantage of our secondary.”

With 25 tackles from its front seven, Tabor defenders held the Warriors to 57 rushing yards for an average of 2.5 yards per carry-but gave up more than 10 yards per pass attempt in the process.

After the touchdown, Sterling widened the margin to 14 by converting a 2-point conversion with a pass from Buchanan to Matthews.

With 2:15 remaining before the half, Jones jump-started the Tabor offense with a 15-yard pass to Julius Williams and a 13-yard run.

With a first-and-ten at the Sterling 35, the drive stalled.

Derik Martinez came on for a 50 yard field goal attempt with the wind at his back. He drove the ball solidly, but missed the mark as the ball crashed into the left upright and bounced back into the end zone.

The air went out of the crowd of Bluejay fans exhaled a sigh of disappointment, and Tabor spent the second half trying to recover from their second-quarter struggles.

The teams battled to a standstill in the third quarter, and Sterling was content to hold the ball for 10:29 on three possessions.

Jones was intercepted at the end of the quarter, setting up Sterling’s final score early in the fourth.

A 29-yard hookup between Buchanan and Stokes led to a Buchanan touchdown dive from a yard out; the 2-point conversion failed, but Sterling led 20-0 with 12:32 to play.

Ricky Ishida entered the game at quarterback at that point and got loose on a 15-yard scramble that brought the loudest cheers of the afternoon from the Tabor crowd.

Ishida scrambled for 43 yards on eight attempts as Tabor pounded its way toward the Sterling end zone.

eeding one yard for a first down or two yards for a touchdown, the Bluejays were unable to finish the drive, and the Warriors offense took the field with 5:27 to play.

The Bluejays defense put the ball back in the offense’s hands with 3:37 to play. With just over a minute remaining, Jones found Marsh open along the sideline, and No. 9 raced 26 yards into the end zone as the Bluejays foiled Sterling’s bid for a shutout.

For the game, Marsh pulled down five passes for 63 yards. Jenkins (56 yards), Owens (28 yards) and Julius Williams (24 yards) each added two catches as Jones completed 11 passes for 171 yards. He also ran for 45 yards.

The loss dropped Tabor to 2-3 on the season and ended a five-game winning streak against Sterling.

Tabor travels to McPherson this week, where the Bluejays look to rebound with a win over the 1-4 Bulldogs.

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