Early scoring burst fuels Tabor’s 44-17 win over University of Saint Mary

Tabor College’s 17th-ranked Bluejays rolled up 21-0 lead against the University of Saint Mary before the halfway point of the first quarter, then played the 1-4 Spires even-steven the rest of the game in a 44-24 victory Saturday at Joel Wiens Stadium.

After a three-and-out following the opening kickoff, the Spires punted to the Bluejays. Three plays later quarterback Curry Parham connected with Zach Johnson for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Austin Smith’s kick made it 7-0.

One play after the kickoff, Spire quarterback Drew Cortez’s pass was picked off by Kaleb Neuschafer, who returned it to the USM 21-yard line. Four plays later, Parham broke off tackle and scored from 2 yards out. Smith’s kick made it 14-0 at the 9:52 mark.

But the season of giving wasn’t over yet. On the fourth play of Spires’ next possession, Tabor’s Evan Sprayberry recovered a Spire fumble at the USM 30-yard line. Three plays later, Drevion Cooper swept the left end for a 13-yard score and a 21-0 Tabor lead with 7:31 remaining in the opening period.

The potential blowout seemed to fizzle when Smith’s 44-yard field goal attempt had plenty of distance, but ricocheted off the left upright.

Neither team scored again until Cortez found Andre Long for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:56 left in the first half. Tabor responded with a seven-play, 55-yard drive with Parham finding the end zone from 10 yards out and 1:12 left before intermission. Smith’s kick put Tabor ahead at halftime, 28-7.

The second half started with a Tabor turnover in the end zone when Parham’s pass to Johnson was picked off by Spire defender Nicholas Holmes.

Saint Mary narrowed the point spread from 21 to 18 with a field goal at the 10:28 mark of the third quarter. Tabor responded in kind with Smith’s 19-yard field goal on the Bluejays’ next possession.

The Spires got to within two touchdowns late in the third quarter when Cortez tossed a 16-yard scoring pass for a 31-17 margin at the 1:39 mark.

With the wind once again behind their backs in the fourth quarter, Tabor put together two more scoring drives. The first one culminating with a 16-yard run by Drevion Cooper 45 seconds into the quarter. The final score of the night came when Ontre’Von Cooper skirted the right end for a 22-yard touchdown run and the 44-17 final score.

The win boosts Tabor’s record to 3-0 in the KCAC and 3-1 for the season, while USM slipped to 0-3 and 1-4. Next week, Tabor travels to Sterling College to take on the 19th-ranked Bulldogs.