Tabor succumbs to Morningside, 65-17

Joseph Donnell (Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal)For the second-consecutive year, the Tabor College football team suffered a season-ending, postseason defeat to Morningside. Having fallen to the Mustangs by a 51-6 margin in the NAIA quarterfinals a year ago, this year Tabor succumbed in the first round by a 65-17 score.

Tabor nearly tripled its offensive point total from a year ago, scoring all 17 points in the first half, thanks to a first-quarter field goal by Jared Slavens and a pair of second-quarter touchdowns.

But Morningside, who enjoyed a 30-point second quarter and held a 37-17 lead at halftime, shut out the Bluejays in the second half while scoring 28 unanswered points.

Tabor covered very minimal positive ground in the second half, pitted against a relentless defense that pressured Tabor’s quarterbacks and recorded four sacks, including three in the third quarter.

In the final quarter, Tabor maintained possession of the ball for just 58 seconds.

Morningside covered 75 yards in five plays on the game’s opening drive to score on a 14-yard touchdown run about a minute and a half into the game.

Tabor’s first drive netted negative yardage, but the Bluejay defense forced a punt on Morningside’s next possession.

Tabor’s offense showed signs of life after that, and on the ninth play of the drive, Keith Thomas completed a 27-yard pass to Zack Johnson to put Tabor at the Mustang 4-yard line. But thanks in part to a penalty, Tabor lost 13 yards to bring out the field-goal unit. Jared Slavens sent a 34-yard field goal through the uprights, and Morningside’s 7-3 margin held through the end of the first quarter.

The Mustangs scored on the first play of the second period, then sacked Curry Parham in the end zone for a safety two plays into Tabor’s next drive. That made it 16-3 at the 14:07 mark.

Morningside then covered 68 yards in three plays, thanks to a 44-yard pass completion on first down. A 15-yard touchdown run by the Mustangs’ leading rusher, Tyler Kavan, extended Morningside’s lead to 23-3.

Tabor fired back with a three-play scoring drive of its own. Parham completed a 43-yard pass to Johnson on first down and hit Johnson again two plays later for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Slavens’ kick made it 23-10 with 12:07 left in the half.

Kavan scored the second of his three rushing touchdowns to cap Morningside’s next drive, making it 30-10.

Again, Tabor needed just three plays to score, this time taking advantage of a 58-yard pass completion from Parham to Charles Beale that put Tabor at the Mustang 6-yard line. Thomas crossed the goal line from there, narrowing the gap to 30-17 with 7:21 left in the half.

Tabor’s defense forced back-to-back Morningside punts after that, thanks in part to Evan Sprayberry’s sack for a loss of 10 yards, and later, a tackle for a loss of 9.

However, a Bluejay fake punt attempt gave Morningside a short field, and the Mustangs punched in one final score before intermission.

Tabor fumbled the ball away as it neared the red zone, maintaining Morningside’s 37-17 lead at halftime.

Tabor couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half, netting 0 yards in the third quarter.

Defensively, Sprayberry forced a fumble and Maurice Payne recovered it to record Tabor’s only stop of the third period. Aside from the turnover, Morningside scored on every possession to take a 58-17 lead into the fourth quarter. The Mustangs started two of their third-quarter drives in Tabor territory.

With a new quarterback under center, Morningside started its first possession of the fourth quarter in Bluejay territory and covered 44 yards in eight plays to score its final touchdown with 10:16 left in the game. That brought it to the final 48-point spread.

Tabor recorded 247 yards of offense, compared with 612 for Morningside.

Tabor’s running game was an uphill battle. The Bluejays netted 48 rushing yards, led by Thomas with eight carries for 40 yards and one touchdown.

Through the air, Parham was 8-for-16 for 149 yards and one touchdown. Thomas was 4-for-5 for 50 yards. Johnson hauled in three receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Tabor concludes the season with an overall record of 8-3.

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