Tabor upsets No. 1 Kansas Wesleyan for homecoming, 56-31

Victory tasted sweet indeed for the Tabor football team today, who bounced back from a near miss against Ottawa last week to soar to a 56-31 upset win over top KCAC team Kansas Wesleyan University. The Coyotes are now 4-1 in conference play, while the Bluejays move up to the No. 3 spot in the conference with a 3-1 record in the KCAC and 4-2 overall. Tabor is scheduled to travel to Bethany College (1-3 in KCAC) Saturday for another conference match-up.

KWU got the first strike against Tabor with a field goal halfway through the first quarter, but the Bluejays kicked things into high gear seconds after, driving 71 yards downfield for a diving touchdown on the keeper from sophomore quarterback Simon McKee, with five minutes left in the period. A made PAT kick made it 7-3. 

A minute later the Tabor defense took over, with senior defensive end Chris Sanborn snagging the pick at the Kansas Wesleyan 29-yard line to halt the drive, though the Bluejays’ field goal attempt on fourth down was no good. No problem, the Tabor defense earned another turnover moments later as junior defensive back Anthony Daniel recovered the KWU fumble on the 28-yard line to give Tabor the ball at the end of the first quarter. 

Seconds into the next period, the Bluejays once more put points on the board, courtesy of junior running back James Monroe, Jr. The extra point gave Tabor a 14-3 margin to begin the second quarter. 

Kansas Wesleyan took over at their 29 and strung together a 71-yard touchdown drive, converting in a third-and-20 situation with a long pass to junior wide receiver Zach McClain at the Bluejay 21 and then finding McClain again in the end zone at 11:45. The extra point drew the Coyotes within four, 14-10. 

But Tabor would respond with a long drive from their own 29, running the ball and making progress the hard way with five first downs to get to the KWU seven-yard line. McKee ran in for the touchdown at 8:10, giving Tabor the 21-10 lead after the PAT kick.

The Bluejays would score once more before the half when a Coyotes penalty gave Tabor a first down on fourth-and-seven, keeping the drive alive and paving the way for a Monroe touchdown, 28-10 after the PAT kick, with 3:36 remaining. 

Twice it appeared Kansas Wesleyan would put up more points before the half, but each time the Bluejay defense came through, with freshman linebacker Ben Gardner getting the pick on a Sanborn tip and Tabor earning the three-and-out stop after the Coyotes recovered a Bluejay fumble on the KWU 22-yard line. 

Tabor went into the locker room with an 18-point lead. 

The Bluejays have struggled in previous games to finish well in the second half, letting opponents get back in the game after a big first-half performance by Tabor, but this time the ‘Jays didn’t let up the pressure. Tabor pounded away at the KWU defense, running downfield to set up a 12-yard scramble by Monroe for the score, 35-10. 

Still not content, the Bluejays got another boost when junior defensive back JP DeJesus snatched an interception at the KWU 34-yard line on the Coyotes’ first touch of the half. The turnover set up a five-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Darian Polk to make it 42-10 with just under 10 minutes left in the quarter. 

Kansas Wesleyan would finally pick up a touchdown at the eight-minute mark, scoring on the end zone pass after making the sliding catch at the Tabor 36 for a first down and 24-yard gain. They scored again with a diving quarterback keeper at 3:33, after they blocked a Tabor punt on the Bluejay 16-yard line and a pass interference penalty gave them a first down on a the 11-yard line. 

However, the Bluejays still held a 42-33 lead and brought the ball up to the Tabor 40-yard line at the end of the third period. A few minutes later, junior running back Brandon Johnson ran in for the touchdown, 49-23. 

The Coyotes scored again on their next possession, when McClain got the catch on a third-and-five, appeared to be down, but with no whistle ran in for the KWU touchdown. A two-point conversion made it 49-31. 

But Tabor wasn’t about to let this one slip away. The Bluejays drove downfield once more, setting up a first and goal at 5:56. Monroe lost his helmet but gained the touchdown, as he dived into the end zone for the final score of the game. From there the Tabor defense took over to secure the 25-point victory. 

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