Tabor unable to secure win in 15-14 loss to McPherson

McPherson?s Trea Lott intercepts the ball in the end zone during the second quarter Saturday. Missed opportunities and untimely mistakes were a factor in the Bluejays? 15-14 loss to McPherson.Missed opportunities and untimely mistakes translated into points left on the field by the Tabor College football team, leaving the Bluejays trailing McPherson, 15-14, when the final buzzer sounded Saturday.

Tabor held a 14-3 advantage going into the final quarter but gave up 12 unanswered points in the fourth period.

But Tabor?s misfortune began from the start, as the Bluejays could not capitalize on field position early on. Tabor?s first drive began at the McPherson 37-yard line after a 6-yard punt by the Bulldogs. But the drive stalled at the Bulldog 10, and Jared Slavens? 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Ashton Serpas.

After a second short punt by McPherson, Tabor?s next possession ended with the same result. Jordan Bernhardy?s third-down pass went through the hands of Bruce Smith, who had an open field in front of him, then Serpas blocked a 41-yard field goal try by Slavens.

Tabor?s next possession ended in a lost fumble, setting McPherson up with a first-and-goal at the Bluejay 2-yard line. The Tabor defense forced the Bulldogs to settle for a field goal, and the 23-yard attempt sailed through the uprights, putting McPherson in front, 3-0, which held to the end of the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, Tabor drove from its own 34-yard line to the Bulldog 1-yard line?aided by a 44-yard pass completion from Bernhardy to Torrey Gill?before being backed up by a false start penalty. But on the next play, Owen Cole?s pass bounced through the hands of an open Ben Bebermeyer in the end zone and into the arms of McPherson?s Trea Lott.

McPherson returned the favor, however, by fumbling the ball back to Tabor, and that set up the Bluejays? first scoring drive. Bernhardy completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jonah McKee, capping a six play, 25-yard drive. Slavens? kick put Tabor in front, 7-3 with 18.2 seconds left in the half, and the Bluejays took that lead into intermission.

Tabor?s first possession of the second half ended in an interception, and the Bulldogs later reciprocated when Matt McElroy pulled down a Kelly Cordova pass. That led to another Bluejay score, and Tabor took a 14-3 lead after D?Marco Smith scored from 1 yard out and Slavens added the extra-point kick with 3:10 left in the third quarter. Tabor held that margin heading into the fatal final quarter.

After the teams traded punts, McPherson put together a seven-play, 34-yard drive and scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by Cordova. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Bulldogs closed the gap to 14-9 with 6:05 left in the game.

Just two plays into Tabor?s next drive, Bernhardy threw his second interception of the game. The pass was tipped first by Lott, then snatched up by Serpas.

With 5:39 left to work with, the Bulldogs managed what would be the winning score. A 2-yard touchdown run by Cordova capped a nine-play, 40-yard drive. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but McPherson had claimed a 15-14 lead.

Tabor got the ball back with 2:24 to go, but Bernhardy was dropped for a loss on first down. Three incomplete passes later, and Tabor was forced to turn the ball over on downs, allowing McPherson to run out the final 1:39.

The Bluejays held a 237 to 211 advantage in total yards, but were limited on the ground to 95 yards rushing, led by Owen Cole with 10 carries for 37 yards. Bernhardy was 12-for-28 for 142 yards and a touchdown. McPherson tallied 162 rushing yards and 49 passing yards.

Coming?Tabor (3-3, 5-3) will look to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday at Bethany (3-3, 4-4). Game time is 1:30 p.m.

For scores and updates during football games, follow Janae on Twitter @janaerem13

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