With its home stadium?s name sake in attendance, the Tabor football team won its first game since the construction of Joel H. Wiens stadium, downing Southwestern 55-28 Saturday.
?I did think a lot about that this week,? said coach Mike Gardner. ?You have a guy that?s invested his resources and his time and energy to creating something like this; you kind of want to do something special in front of him.?
Tabor did that in the first half, scoring 34 unanswered points.
Facing winds gusting up to 30-35 miles per hour in the opening quarter, Tabor moved 80 yards in 13 plays on the opening drive. Billy Hickman?s offense established the run, carrying the ball 10 times.
James Monroe shouldered most of the first drive?s ground game with runs of seven, nine, 10, 18, six, 11 and one yards. Monroe?s shortest gain was the first score of the game. Following a Sean Rothwell PAT kick, Tabor had a 7-0 lead with at the 9:46 mark of the first quarter.
Following a three-and-out by Southwestern, Tabor took a 14-0 lead with 7:02 in the first with a 77-yard touchdown pass from Joey Erickson to Aziz Spellman-Smith.
?I told Aziz this morning, ?I?ve got a good feeling about today, I think you?re going to go off.? And he did go off.,? said Gardner
On Tabor?s next scoring drive, the Bluejays moved downfield with the passing game with Erickson finding Spellman-Smith for gains of 36 and 12 yards and scoring with a 11-yard strike to Duray Gardener. Rothwell missed the PAT kick, keeping the score at 20-0 with 3:03 in the first.
Continuing its blistering scoring pace, Tabor started the second quarter with a touchdown. At the 11:13 mark, Andrew Herard found the end zone with two-yard run. Herard set up his own score, breaking loose for 15-yards on the previous play. Rothwell converted the PAT, stretching Tabor?s lead to 27-0.
Tabor prevented a Moundbuilders? score on the next drive, stopping Southwestern at the Bluejay three-yard line on fourth-and-three. Tabor?s next possession led to its first punt of the game.
With Southwestern stalling again, Tabor returned to its scoring ways. Erickson found Herard for 18-yard touchdown followed by a Rothwell kick to take a 34-0 lead into the half.
Tabor scored once more on its second drive of the third quarter before Southwestern put up 21 straight points to end the quarter.
?I?ve been involved in four or five wind games,? said Gardner. ?The coin flip is usually a deciding factor early.?
He continued, ?When we deferred and they decided to give us the ball, I thought, ?Well, we have a decision to make in that third quarter. Coming out of the locker room I thought taking the ball was the right thing to do.?
Tabor?s third quarter score was set up by a Spencer Brown interception of Brad May at the Moundbuilder?s 47, which he returned to the 34. Tabor scored four plays later on a two-yard run by Herard, his third. Rothwell made the PAT to extend the Tabor lead to 41-0 at the 8:20 mark.
The scoring spurt for Southwestern was sparked by a Bluejay turnover. Throwing into the wind near mid-field, Erickson threw his only pick. Brandon Davis snatched a pass intended for Scott Bauer and returned into Tabor territory at the 49.
Case Myer ran the ball three straight plays. The first a 35-yard carry, the last a four-yard touchdown. Austin Ledy kicked the PAT to get on the board 41-7 with 5:29 in the third.
Another turnover led to the Moundbuilders? next touchdown. Backed up at its own 15, Tabor lost possession due to a Herard fumble that was recovered by Shane Hummer at the Bluejay 19.
Myers scored again, this time on a six-yard carry followed by a Ledy PAT kick, cutting into the Bluejay lead at 41-14 with 5:00 in the third.
A chop block penalty put Tabor back further than they could recover from on the ensuing drive leading to a punt and another Southwestern score.
Myers recorded his third touchdown of the game with a two-yard blast. Ledy converted the PAT to make the score 41-21.
?The short field snuck up on us. A couple turnovers snuck up on us,? said Gardner.
Tabor found the end zone again in the fourth quarter taking a 48-21 lead on an Erickson five-yard quarterback keeper and Rothwell PAT kick with 12:51 to play. Erickson set up the touchdown with a 40-yard run on the previous play.
Southwestern ended its scoring on the following drive with a May five-yard pass to Adam Hilker. Ledy made the PAT to trail 48-28 with 9:37 to play.
Tabor crossed the goal line once more with 6:01 to play on a big play in the passing game. Erickson completed his fourth touchdown pass of the game, finding Gardener for 59-yards. Rothwell made the PAT to end the scoring.
In the high scoring affair Tabor gained 693 yard on 81 plays, 323 on the ground. Southwestern ran the ball 69 times for 389 yards.
Gardener said stopping the run is an area the Bluejays need to improve on.
?It goes back to blocking and tackling,? said Gardner. ?I hate to sound old school but that?s what it is. I don?t care if you run Oregon?s offense or if your running a version of Woody Hayes back in the 60?s, it?s the same thing.?
Erickson finished 22-of-35 for 370 yards and four touchdowns and ran the ball 11 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Spellman-Smith caught 12 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.
Monroe carried the ball 18 times for 114 yards and one touchdown. Gardener caught six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Herard ran 12 times for 74 yard and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass.
For Southwestern, Myers had 226 yards on 32 attempts and three touchdowns. Cory Holbert finished with 125 yard on 24 attempts.
With the win, Tabor matched its win total over the past three seasons at three. The Bluejays (3-5, 3-6) host St. Mary (2-6, 2-7) Saturday.
The Squires fell to Sterling 21-13 Saturday and beat Friends 38-35 in Leavenworth Oct. 30.
To watch a replay of the game go to: https://www.hillsborofreepress.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18093713&catid=3