Bluejays fall late to ‘Builders

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Tabor wide receiver Lance Stubbs fights through a tackle to score a touchdown in the second quarter Saturday. Tabor took a 13-6 lead on the score, but ultimately fell by a 26-20 margin. Andrew Ottoson / Free Press.

The Tabor College football team lost its final home game of the season to Southwestern, 26-20, on Saturday.

Anthony Davis, who started at quarterback in place of the injured Jason Aubrey, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Bluejays leaned heavily on its passing game for the second straight week.

Davis tossed both scores in the first quarter, wiping out an early deficit.

The Moundbuilders got off to a fast start. On the third play from scrimmage, running back Michael Coppock took a delayed handoff from quarterback Jesse Lyons and raced 50 yards down the visitors? sideline for a touchdown. Tabor stopped the 2-point conversion run to maintain a 6-0 tally.

Davis led the team quickly down field, completing a 23-yard pass to Steven Branham on second-and-12 and then a 39-yard catch-and-run to Matthew Dean for the score. Derik Martinez?s kick gave Tabor a 7-6 lead with 11:36 left in the quarter.

After the Bluejays stopped a South?western drive at the Tabor 11, the offense needed only seven plays to cover 89 yards. The big play was a 56-yard pass from Davis to Devin Smith, giving Tabor a first-and-goal at the Moundbuilder 9.

Three plays later Lance Stubbs put the ball in the end zone after a short completion. The score made it 13-6 with 3:50 to play in the opening frame.

Southwestern kick returner Davion Mitchell had given the Moundbuilders strong field position twice already, and a short kick gave them another short field to work with.

Southwestern covered 58 yards in 12 plays for the score. Phillip Jones nearly stopped the drive when he exploded into the backfield and sacked Lyons for a 10-yard loss, bringing up third-and-goal at the Tabor 16.

But Lyons hooked up with Ryan Molz for a touchdown on the next play. Southwestern failed on the point-after and trailed 13-12.

The teams traded 3-and-outs, but when the Bluejays committed the game?s first turnover at 8:45 in the second quarter, Southwestern was only 28 yards away from the end zone after sacking Davis and recovering his fumble.

Tabor?s defense forced an incomplete pass on third-and-6 but committed a personal foul facemask in the process. The Moundbuilders made the most of the second chance, with Lyons finding Molz open in the end zone. Another missed extra point made it 18-13 with 7:06 left.

Neither team made much headway on offense, and South?western imploded spectacularly with less than a minute remaining in the half.

Facing second-and-8 at the Tabor 27, Lyons underthrew a pass intended for Molz. DeJaun Jones intercepted it at the Tabor 12. Reversing his field twice, Jones made it all the way to the Southwestern 37. It went down officially as a 51-yard return, but the senior probably covered at least that same distance laterally.

Tabor tried a 44-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the half, but the kick knuckled short and to the left.

The teams traded punts, then traded turnovers in the third quarter. Midway through, Macklin Nusz intercepted Davis at midfield and returned it 30 yards. Cox caught him at the Tabor 24, but the Moundbuilders seemed certain to score.

Again aided by a penalty, Southwestern drove the ball to the Tabor 2 before losing the first of three fumbles.

Unfortunately, the Jays? offense ran two plays, lost yardage and gave up a safety. Trailing 20-13, Tabor then punted the ball back to South?western.

The Bluejays took the ball right back as defensive end Lance Baar jumped on an unforced fumble at the Tabor 37.

Southwestern returned the favor on the first play of the fourth quarter when Davis was whacked at the line of scrimmage and lost the ball to Blake Ridgeway, stifling Tabor?s 61-yard march to the opposing 2.

The teams again traded punts, but Tabor came out ahead on the exchange, with South?western?s Ben Sorrell first muffing at his own 5, then scooping up the loose ball and eluding Stubbs, who picked himself up and sprinted back into the fray?where he found himself in perfect position to pounce on the loose ball.

The turnover set the stage for a 7-yard run by Davis that, combined with the kick by Martinez, tied the score at 20 with 7:56 left.

After Tabor?s defense forced a punt with 4:01 left, the offense was unable to pick up a first down in four plays.

Southwestern, with 2:58 to go, ran a hurry-up offense the rest of the way, breaking through with the game-winner on a 31-yard flare pass from Lyons to Coppock?30 of which came after the catch.

A fourth botched extra-point gave Southwestern a 26-20 lead with 30 seconds to go.

With time running out, Davis completed a 12-yard pass to Jason Medellin before being sacked for a 9-yard loss and having his next pass picked off to end the game.

Southwestern ran for 224 yards and threw for 119, while Tabor threw for 258 and ran for 48. Each team committed three turnovers. The Bluejays recovered only three of South?western?s seven fumbles. 

Dean led the offense with five receptions for 88 yards. On defense, Kyle Basinger had 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Mario Nava added 11 tackles, including eight solos. In addition to the fumble recovery, Baar had a sack and 11⁄2 tackles for loss that cost the Moundbuilders 20 yards.

For Southwestern, Coppock averaged 7.9 yards per touch and accumulated 174 yards?141 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and 33 more on two receptions.

Coming?Tabor (1-7) will finish its season with a 7 p.m. contest at McPherson (3-5) this Saturday and a 1:30 p.m. contest at Kansas Wesleyan (4-4) Nov. 10.

Two Bluejay wins combined with two Bulldog losses would allow Tabor to equal McPher?son?s win total.

McPherson is not likely to win its finale against the NAIA?s 10th-ranked Bethel Threshers, a game to be played Nov. 10 in North Newton?meaning that Tabor could avoid finishing last in the conference despite suffering its worst season since 1999.

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