It was Tabor?s second all-time appearance in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Foot?ball Championship Series.
?We had our opportunities early, we just didn?t take full advantage of them like we should?ve,??coach Mike Gardner said.
Tabor benefitted from three Grand View turnovers in the first quarter to build an early 14-0 lead. But the Vikings responded with 30 unanswered points by halftime, creating a deficit Tabor could not overcome.
Although Grand View eventually wore down Tabor?s defense, Gardner was pleased with his team?s effort on both sides of the ball.
?We definitely frustrated them,? he said. ?We ultimately ended up wearing out on defense. Their speed caught up to us.
?They were able to utilize their weapons on offense, and they took advantage and they hit us with some big plays. But we also did some things offensively and defensively in that game that presented them some problems.?
The game pitted Tabor?s second-ranked rushing offense?the Bluejays came into the contest averaging 329 rushing yards per game?against the second-ranked rushing defense of Grand View, which had given up an average of 78 rushing yards per game prior to Saturday.
Tabor managed 109 rushing yards in the game.
?We mixed up how we were going to block things, and we mixed up our reads,? Gardner said of Tabor?s offensive plan. ?Basically, they played a 4-3 style defense versus the option, with a rover at the (middle linebacker).
?They did a good job of protecting that rover. It was hard for us to get a body on him, and he was able to disrupt some things. But we still had over 100 yards rushing against them, and they?d been holding people to less than what we had.?
Running back James Monroe carried the ball 15 times for 24 yards, concluding his Tabor career with 3,927 career yards to re-set his school record. The previous record set in 1972 by NFL All-Pro Rolland ?Bay? Lawrence was 3,008 yards.
?Unbelievable career, unbelievable person,? Gardner said of Monroe. ?Definitely going to miss him.?
Cody Coleman led Tabor?s rushing attack for the day with 20 carries for 53 yards.
?Everybody keyed on James, but everybody keyed on James for weeks,? Gardner said. ?Tyler (Davis) made some really nice reads, and we hit a couple plays on the edge which we weren?t able to do against Benedic?tine. That was, in and of itself, kind of surprising to me.?
To complement Tabor?s limited rushing attack, the Bluejays went to the air for 252 yards. Ryan Nelson completed 16 of 30 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
?Ryan Nelson threw the ball very well,? Gardner said. ?I couldn?t be prouder of Ryan and what he?s done and what he?s brought to this thing and this season.
?For him to have the kind of year he had and play in the offense we?re in speaks volumes for him and his character and his ability to step up and perform.?
Scott Bauer hauled in nine passes for 126 yards.
?Scott Bauer had a great game catching the football,? Gardner added. ?About halfway through the second quarter they switched defensive backs and put a different guy on him.?
Tabor again utilized two quarterbacks?as did Grand View?a system Gardner said has worked well for the Bluejays.
?I have absolutely no regrets about doing that,??he said. ?I think it was the right decision because both of them just do different things well.?
Saturday?s game began with a fumbled kickoff return by Grand View. Tabor took over at the Viking 29-yard line and advanced to the 3-yard line before a penalty and a couple tackles for loss brought up fourth-and-goal at the 15. The Bluejays came up empty when Jared Slavens? 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Tabor got a break on Grand View?s ensuing possession when Ben Gardner intercepted quarterback Derek Fulton?s second-down pass.
Tabor did not score on that possession, but after forcing a Grand View punt, the Bluejays found the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Nick Solis, capping a six-play, 44-yard drive. Slavens? kick gave Tabor a 7-0 lead with 2:54 left in the first quarter.
Tabor got another break when Fulton fumbled on first down and Michael Pineda recovered the ball at the Grand View 1-yard line. Nelson was in the end zone one play later for Tabor?s second touchdown in 18 seconds to boost the Bluejays? lead to 14-0.
?We were up 14-nothing, but we could?ve been up 17- or 21-nothing very easily? we just didn?t take advantage of the opportunities we had,? Gardner said. ?Then (Grand View) kind of woke up a little bit and started playing.?
The tide began to change when Grand View launched a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive capped by a 31-yard pass that narrowed Tabor?s lead to 14-7 with 5 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Vikings added a safety when a high snap on a Tabor punt attempt sailed into the end zone. Grand View took a 16-14 lead just over a minute later on a 10-yard touchdown run.
The Vikings added two more touchdowns before halftime?a 20-yard pass and a 1-yard run?for a 30-14 advantage at intermission.
Tabor opened the second half with a missed field goal from 44 yards out. But after Grand View went three-and-out, the Bluejays added three points on a 26-yard field goal by Slavens.
The scoring drive was highlighted by four catches by Bauer for 65 yards. The field goal narrowed the deficit to 30-17 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Grand View, however, countered with touchdown passes of 61 and 74 yards for a 44-17 bulge with 3:43 left to play.
The Bluejays managed a final touchdown with 47 seconds left when Nelson connected with Monroe for a 20-yard strike to cap a 10-play, 76-yard drive. Slavens? kick made it 44-24, a margin that held to the end.
Tabor concludes the 2013 season with a record of 10-3, while Grand View improved to 12-0.
?It was really a good season,? Gardner said. ?I couldn?t be prouder of these guys. They battled through a lot of things, overcoming the injuries. We had to literally play playoff-caliber football, not just in the playoffs this year, but in three other games?Ottawa and Friends and definitely Mid-America.
?These guys have accomplished a lot, and I?m proud of them.?