Friends routs Tabor, boosts national rank

TCfbDWashington.jpg
TCfbDWashington.jpg

Jordan Highley (27) dives and brings down Bluejays running back Derek Washington behind the line of scrimmage. Highley and the Friends defensive line caused chaos in Tabor?s offensive backfield throughout Saturday?s 65-17 rout. Washington was held without a touchdown run for the first time this season.

The Tabor College football team brought an underdog's game plan into Adair-Austin Stadium in Wichita, while Friends looked like a team intent on climbing the national rankings. The Falcons entered Saturday ranked No. 17 in the NAIA and jumped to 16th with 660 yards of offense in a 65-17 dismantling of the Bluejays.

Friends coach Monty Lewis told the Wichita Eagle his team is "scary good when we're firing on all cylinders and mentally focused.?

He might as well have said that his team sleepwalked through the first quarter for the third time in three conference games. And Tabor, like McPherson and Southwestern, took an early lead.

The Bluejays defense forced two 3-and-outs and scored the game's first points when Sidney Childers scored on a fumble return. The loose ball pinballed between players in the Friends backfield like a misguided option pitch, but was listed in the official statistics as a ?handoff.? Childers picked it up near the Friends 26 and darted into the end zone.

It was Tabor?s first defensive touchdown in three seasons under coach Mike Gottsch.

Stephen Gulledge tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 Tabor lead with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.

?Our special teams play was very positive,? Gottsch said. ?We hit all extra points and field goal attempts. We had a long punt return and good kick returns setting us up in good field position, and deep kickoffs made them go long distances.?

Friends countered the opening score almost instantaneously, with quarterback Tim Rozzell?s 34-yard run capping a 5-play drive that tied it at 7-7 just 2:01 after Childers?s score.

Rozzell ended up accounting for five touchdowns on the night, with three of his four passing touchdowns coming later in the Falcons? 35-point second quarter.

Chris Bolander scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns at 7:46 of the second, giving Friends a 14-7 lead.

Tabor lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Rozzell?s touchdown pass to Doug Pierce gave the Falcons a 20-7 lead.

Tabor quarterback Marc Amos scored on a 33-yard run to lift Tabor within 20-14 with 3:01 left in the half.

Beginning with Bolander?s touchdown, Friends scored on four straight drives in the second quarter?the longest of which required just 1:15 of clock time. The streak of consecutive scoring drives ended with Bluejays defensive end Artavious Addison tackling Jeran Trotter as time expired in the first half.

Trotter proved almost unstoppable in the third quarter and finished with 182 rushing yards on nine carries?an average of 20.2 yards per handoff.

As Friends heated up, Tabor melted down with 101 yards worth of penalties while totaling just 125 offensive yards.

The Falcons defensive line controlled the third quarter, limiting the Bluejays to -9 offensive yards in the frame.

Friends rushed for 373 and threw for 287.

?All teams must continually improve their weak areas, fix areas that are being exposed to get better,? Gottsch said. ?Our press coverage has been exposed by very gifted receivers. We must do a better job schematically and technically to not allow big plays.?

The brightest lights for Tabor were the plays made by Addison (12 tackles, 9 solo) and by linebacker Teal Stutzman (14 tackles, 7 solo). Stutzman also recorded the first quarterback sack made by the Bluejays defense this season.

Falcons defensive end Jordan Highley caused many of Tabor's ugliest offensive plays: his 3 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss totaled 37.5 yards.

Friends defensive back Quinn Cunningham notched two interceptions as the Bluejays committed four turnovers.

Friends (2-1) remains in the hunt for its fourth consecutive conference title. The Falcons lost to No. 21 McPherson after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter of the Week 1. Friends also trailed Southwestern (0-3) for a significant portion of the first quarter of Week 2.

Coming?With several games against ranked opponents remaining on the schedule, the Bluejays face an uphill climb.

?We have lots of football left?seven games?and many great teams left to play,? Gottsch said. ?Our goal is to get better every week, be very competitive and win them all.?

The Bluejays will host Peru State at 2 p.m. this Saturday. Peru State is 1-3 with a 23-7 loss to Sterling being its only game against a familiar opponent.

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