Jinxed: Tabor falls at Southwestern 23-20

The Tabor College football team played its best game of the season,
but lost 23-20 Saturday at Southwestern. The Bluejays struggled to run
the ball from 20 to 20, but scored two rushing touchdowns. The Bluejays
completed less than half their pass attempts and had a 57-yard field
goal attempt blocked, but took a 20-16 lead on the first play of the
fourth quarter. And Tabor came out ahead on turnovers?or, at least,
should have. Southwestern fumbled four times officially and put the
ball on the ground with bad snaps throughout the game, but on what
proved to be the pivotal play, the Moundbuilders benefited from
generous officiating.

Barely a minute after the Bluejays pulled
ahead on Derek Washington's 2-yard touchdown run, Southwestern took in
stride a botched snap while handing off to Lance Evans, who was
blasted by Charles Urrutia
almost at the moment of the exchange and was wrapped up by Joaquim
Haywood. Evans fumbled, and was taken to the ground by Urrutia and
Haywood; the ball wound up in the hands of Chris Sanborn, whose nose
for the ball has put him within arm's reach of almost every big play
the Bluejays defense has made this year. Sanborn sprinted to the end
zone, apparently having scored a decisive touchdown; it was called
back, the first whistle having blown the moment Evans's progress was
stopped?barely a millisecond after the first collision. Tabor coach
Mike Gottsch made no secret of his outrage over what he saw
, rightly, as an egregious error, and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Second-and-18 became second-and-3.

Southwestern scored the winning touchdown nine plays
later, on a 9-yard pass from Jordan Barrett to Joey Pataki with 10:26
remaining in the fourth.

The Bluejays had overcome a 9-0 Moundbuilders lead, scoring on two
2-yard runs by Washington and a pass from Joey Erickson to Chris Roddy.
Combined with a kick by Stephen Gulledge, Roddy's touchdown chopped a
16-7 deficit down to 16-14?the margin by which Tabor trailed after its
first series ended in a safety. The safety followed a 10-yard sack of
Marc Amos, from the Bluejays 13 to their own 3-yard line. After
Southwestern scored to make good on the advantage of strong field
position afforded by the post-safety free kick, Erickson engineered an 11-play scoring drive to close the gap to 9-7.

The Moundbuilders came within an eyelash of catastrophe on their
subsequent possession, which ended with punter Matt Tria chasing an
overthrown snap into his own end zone and popping a low line drive? far
enough that, with an extraordinary bounce, the Bluejays offense was
backed up to midfield. Tabor's offense followed up with its only
turnover?an interception of a deflected pass attempt.

The Moundbuilders parlayed their good luck into their second
touchdown; Evans blasted in a 1-yard run on the fourth play of the
second quarter. The teams exchanged three-and-outs, with Tabor coming out
well ahead on field position thanks to a sack of Barrett by Sanborn at
the Southwestern 9. Tabor then marched from its own 43 to the
Southwestern 11 on the strength of two runs by Erickson: a 26-yarder
that advanced from midfield to just outside the red zone, and a
5-yarder on fourth-and-4 from the 16. Then Erickson threaded a pass to
Roddy, who eluded his mark along the end zone's back line and laid out
to catch an 11-yard touchdown that covered perhaps 25 yards in the air.
Gulledge's kick made it a two-point game.

When the Moundbuilders punted following a possession that gained
five yards on three plays, Roddy broke a 41-yard return; called back on
an illegal block penalty, it cost the Bluejays 52 yards. Tabor was
flagged for a total of 70 yards worth of penalties Saturday.

With the wind at the Bluejays' backs, their ensuing drive stalled at
the Southwestern 40, leaving a 57-yard field goal attempt for Gulledge,
which was blocked. Gulledge hit a 50-yarder last week, and demonstrated
range up to and including 55 yards in the same direction during
halftime. After the blocked kick, a Tabor player was assessed a
personal foul for removing his helmet?a mistake that put the Moundbuilders at the Bluejays 38 on first down.
But the Builders could not crack Tabor's defense, gaining just three
yards on four plays. Tabor's final possession of the first half ended
with a 16-yard run by Zeb Petty?the afternoon's longest run by a Tabor
running back.

Despite everything else that happened Saturday, the Bluejays played
their hearts out through the final horn. Facing first-and-10 at his own
14
with 20 seconds to go, Erickson found Roddy with a short throw toward
the home sideline. Roddy blistered past the corner and, seeing the
Moundbuilder safeties closing in from behind, veered into the middle of
the field. Cutting past the hash marks, he collided squarely with
Adrian Clay?a would-be blocker, but also a sudden example of just how
bad Tabor's luck was in Winfield.

Roddy totaled 113 yards on six catches.

Coming?Tabor travels to Leavenworth, where they will seek a change of fortune against the Saint
Mary Spires at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday. The Spires lost to Sterling by
a 24-16 score this week.

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