Jays finish no-win season


Tabor quarterback Joey Erickson nears the end of his longest run from scrimmage?39 yards?during Saturday?s game against Saint Mary. The junior netted 173 yards on 12 carries and threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns on 19-for-39 passing in the Bluejays? season ending 48-34 defeat.

The Tabor College football team closed out its 2009 season schedule with a 48-34 road loss Saturday at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, but set a significant milestone in the program?s history.

The Bluejays offense produced 519 yards, but Erickson demolished a school record set in 2001. By rushing for 173 yards on 15 carries and passing for 297 yards on 19 completions in 39 attempts, Erickson totaled 470 yards of offense?adding nearly 15 percent to the mark (409) established by Willie Lopez against Bethel in 2001.

It was also the final game as Bluejays head coach for Mike Gottsch, who announced his resignation earlier in the week.

Erickson had a hand in four of the Bluejays' five scores, running for an 18-yard touchdown and throwing a total of three touchdown passes: two to Daniel Jost (13 yards and 17 yards), one to Chris Roddy (27 yards).

Tabor took a 6-0 lead on the first of the Erickson-to-Jost touchdowns, but the extra point kick was blocked. The Bluejays attempted 2-point conversions after all their other touchdowns.

The Spires took advantage of a short field to pull ahead. Kyle Jones capped a 30-yard drive with a 6-yard run, and Ryan Sutton?s kick put USM up by a point, 7-6.

Tabor answered quickly, as Erickson connected with Jost early in the second quarter. An incomplete pass on the conversion try left the Bluejays with a 12-7 lead. USM regained the lead, 14-12, when Kameron Ridley scored a 10-yard touchdown minutes later.

After an exchange of turnovers, the Bluejays countered with a 6-play series capped by Derek Washington?s 1-yard run with 1:12 left in the first half. The conversion pass again fell incomplete, but Tabor appeared to be sure of a halftime lead.

The Spires denied that possibility with a 7-play scoring drive that consumed all but 12 seconds of the second quarter.

?Instead of going up at half, we were down 21-18 and lost all momentum,? Gottsch said.

He noted that the Bluejays were hurt by missed opportunities?including a chance for a turnover that would have quashed USM?s half-ending drive, a missed field goal and the missed extra point.

Instead of holding onto the potential takeaway that resulted from a fumble at the end of a long catch-and-run by the Spires, Saint Mary ended up retaining possession and capping the drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Robles to Terrell Harper. The Spires did not trail afterward.

The momentum shift may have been partially negated had a last-second long field goal try by Stephen Gulledge gone according to plan. Instead, the play broke down and the Bluejays carried a 3-point deficit into halftime.

Saint Mary dominated the third quarter, scoring on drives of 70 and 76 yards, and tacked on an 80-yard sprint by Ridley late in the period.

?The three unanswered touchdowns in the third made it too difficult to come back,? Gottsch said. ?I?m proud of our guys scoring 16 in the fourth?it was just another one of those games where one or two plays ends up being the difference. We had five of those kind of games this year.?

The Bluejays rediscovered a sense of urgency as the clock petered out in the fourth quarter, and scored twice before the final horn. Erickson broke his 18-yard touchdown run, scrambling away as the pocket collapsed during a passing play with 2:09 left.

He finished with the most rushing yards by a Tabor quarterback since Shawn Newport ran for 182 against McPherson in 1986.

?Joey epitomizes all the things I believe a QB should,? Gottsch said. ?After knowing he was not our starter after week No. 1, he did not give up.?

USM answered Erickson?s run with a 35-yard run on the third play of a 40-yard drive; Tabor tacked on Erickson's touchdown pass to Roddy with 45 seconds remaining.

Jost totaled 136 receiving yards?124 in the first half?and Tabor averaged nearly 6.5 yards per play, in contrast to a 4.2 per-play average over the season.

Teal Stutzman, Drew Little and Gulledge were named all-KCAC honorable mention.

Coming?The KCAC will be represented by two teams in the national playoffs: No. 5 Ottawa and No. 12 McPherson. Ottawa will host Hastings at 1:30 p.m. while McPherson will visit MidAmerica Nazarene at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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