The Bluejays lost a heartbreaker at home today, as Tabor overcame a 31-14 halftime deficit to draw within three but could not pull out the win. Bethany walked away with a 38-35 victory.
It appeared the game would be all Bethany, as the Swedes found the end zone at 10:17 and capitalized on an interception the next possession to go up, 10-0.
Tabor turned over the ball again with 54 seconds left in the quarter, fumbling it on the Swedes’ 35 yard line, which they recovered and ran to the 32. A fake punt gave Bethany the first down on fourth and two, and the Swedes completed the drive for the score at the beginning of the second quarter, 17-0.
The Bluejay offense found their much-needed scoring spark in running back Brandon Johnson, who broke free for a first down at 12:02 and picked up the touchdown off a pitch at 10:36 to make it 17-7.
But Bethany got the touchdown catch at 8:42 on Tabor’s 30 yard line and ran it in to go up, 24-7.
An unexpected hero showed up for the Bluejays when punter Aaron Annis, who was back to punt on fourth down, spotted a huge hole and scrambled 21 yards to the Bethany 46 for the first down. With five minutes to play Duray Gardner snatched the pass from Tim Rozzell at the 25 yard line and ran in for the score, narrowing the margin to 24-14 after the extra point.
Riding the momentum, at 3:13 Spencer Brown intercepted Bethany at the Tabor 11 yard line and ran it back to the 43. But the Jays would fumble on the 39 yard line, setting up another Swede touchdown with one minute left in the half, 31-14.
Tabor was not about to let their momentum slip away, though. at 9:50 in a fourth and one situation, Brown picked up a fumble at the Tabor 22 yard line and ran it back 78 yards for a Bluejay touchdown. Anthony Pacheco’s extra point was good, bringing the Jays to 31-21.
With 5:31 to play in the third quarter Bethany drove downfield and scored again, again extending their lead to 38-21.
But the Bluejays came back to score again as the fourth quarter began, thanks to a 16-yard Rozzell pass to Cordell Simmons in the end zone for 38-27.
On Tabor’s next drive Bluejay Johnson again kept Tabor’s hopes alive as he pushed forward for a critical first down on fourth at the Bethany 36 yard line, setting up a leaping Gardner pass over a defender on the five yard line to run in for the score. The Bluejays then took the risky gamble and went for the two-point conversion, to bring them within three points, 38-35.
The Bluejay defense then went to work, stopping Bethany on the next possession and setting up another Tabor drive.
But carelessness with the ball that had already cost Tabor 10 points came back to bite them at this oh-so-important moment. Tabor fumbled the ball on the 40 yard line with just three minutes remaining to play, which was recovered by Bethany. The defense could not prevent a Swedes first down, which allowed them to burn out the clock and survive the Bluejay comeback.
Bethany won, 38-35.
The Bluejays racked up 309 yards of total offensive, short of the Swedes’ 435 yards, even though they managed 22 first downs, one more than Bethany. But the Swedes had 245 yards passing, compared to Tabor’s mere 82 yards, but the Bluejays put up 309 rushing yards to Bethany’s 191.
Gardner had 66 yards receiving today, but the big yardage star for the day was defensive player Brown, who picked up a total of 110 yards off two Bethany turnovers.
Coming up – The Bluejays are slated to play McPherson College next Saturday.