ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
On a wet and windswept Reimer Field, the Tabor College Bluejays defeated the Southwestern College Moundbuilders 12-8 on Saturday.
The victory gave the Bluejays their first consecutive victories of the season, evening Tabor’s conference record at 3-3 and improving the team’s overall mark to 4-3.
Mario Nava opened the scoring with 10:30 left in the second quarter with a 2-yard blast up the middle.
Nava carried the ball 12 times and, in addition to scoring the Bluejays’ only touchdown of the day, “the Pride of Peabody” piled up 47 of the home team’s 209 rushing yards.
Southwestern looked to have knotted the score early in the third quarter when Braden Smith found Jacob Behrhorst for a 5-yard score.
But Kyle Basinger slipped into the Moundbuilders’ backfield and blocked the point after.
By rule, a blocked extra point can be returned for a 2-point conversion, and the Bluejays-in the form of freshman cornerback Sean Retting-did exactly that.
Retting scooped up the live ball, weaved his way out of traffic and broke into the clear, covering 90-plus yards and leaving a trail of ecstatic teammates and tired tacklers in his wake.
The play swung three important points in the Bluejays favor, and Derik Martinez added three more with a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Up six points with 2:21 left in the game, the Moundbuilders defense forced a fourth down, and Martinez came on to punt out of his own end zone.
Instead of inviting a special-teams disaster deep in their own end, the Bluejays took a safety.
The calculated risk paid off when the defense stepped up to stop Southwestern’s last ditch drive.
Retting made the big play by intercepting Smith’s last pass at the Bluejays’ 5 yard line, and the game ended on kneel downs.
Tabor totaled 209 total yards-all on the ground-with 106 of those coming on 15 carries by DeJaun Jones.
By contrast, Southwestern managed just 27 rushing yards against the flock of Bluejay run-stoppers.<BR
Alex Wallace, Basinger and Joe Wuest all recorded tackles for loss, and Wallace added a pair of sacks.
The plays Wallace made in their backfield cost the Moundbuilders 38 hard earned yards, and the pressure Wallace applied kept Smith in check for most of the afternoon.
Smith completed 21 of 37 pass attempts for 218 yards, but was intercepted three times in addition to the sacks.