Big plays in the second quarter helped 20th-ranked Tabor College overcome a slow start and dominate 24th-ranked Kansas Wesleyan in a 41-20 victory Sunday at Joel Wiens Stadium.
This was the third time this season Tabor has played on Sunday because of bad weather. The game had been originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on homecoming Saturday, but the start time was changed on Friday to 6:30 p.m. with the hope of avoiding the storm.
But six plays into the contest, lightning prompted a delay and ultimately a postponement until 1 p.m. Sunday. Ironically, the game could have been completed without a weather incident had it started at the original time.
Under sunny skies on Sunday, the Bluejays scored first. Picking up from where the game was halted on Saturday at the Tabor 42-yard line, the Bluejays were in the end zone in five plays with quarterback Curry Parham racing 43 yards for the score. Tabor tried a surprise 2-point conversion play, but Zach Johnson’s pass to Austin Conway was off the mark.
Following the kickoff, the Coyotes marched 67 yards in eight plays, with Demarco Prewett scoring on a 2-yard pass from quarterback Kelly Cordova at the 7:10 mark. The extra-point kick gave KW a 7-6 lead.
That score held into the early minutes of the second quarter. On the first play of a Coyotes’ possession that started on their own 5-yard line, Cordova connected with DJ Thaxton-Liggans for an 85-yard reception that put the Coyotes at the Tabor 10. To their credit, the Bluejay defense kept the visitors out of the end zone, and forced KW to turn the ball over on downs at the Tabor 4.
The Bluejay offense then went three-and-out—well, almost out. On fourth down, Kansas Wesleyan penetrated Tabor’s line and blocked Bryson Casmir’s punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The bonus kick put Tabor in a 14-6 hole.
The Bluejays started their next possession at their own 21 with 7:40 left in the half. On the first play from scrimmage, Ontre’Von Cooper swept the right side and ran 63 yards to the Wesleyan 6. One play later, Logan Vach was in the end zone for the score. Austin Smith’s kick made it 14-13 with 7:08 left.
After forcing a Wesleyan punt, Tabor took over at its own 19-yard line with 2:50 left in the half. On the second play from scrimmage, Drevion Cooper broke loose for a 67-yard run down to the Wesleyan 12. One play later, his brother Ontre’Von was in the end zone. Smith’s kick gave Tabor a 20-14 lead with 1:53 left.
It appeared KW would run out the clock, but Tabor lineman Lolani Faaloua batted a Cordova pass into the air, then secured the interception that gave Tabor the ball at KW’s 37 with 49 seconds left in the half.
Aided by a Wesleyan penalty, Tabor was sitting at the Coyote 2-yard line. Drevion Cooper penetrated the end zone with 14 seconds left, boosting the Bluejays’ lead to 27-14 by intermission.
Tabor’s next scoring drive may have been it’s most impressive. Starting at the Wesleyan 30, the Bluejays covered the field in 15 plays that consumed 6:33 of the third quarter before Drevion Cooper scored from five yards out with 3:03 left to give Tabor a 34-14 lead.
Any hope of a Coyote comeback all but ended when Cordova’s deep pass downfield on the first play of the KW’s ensuing possession was intercepted by Sean Kelley with an incredible snag that ignited Tabor’s sideline.
Both teams scored one more time in the fourth quarter. Wesleyan’s touchdown was set up when the defense blocked another Tabor punt, giving the Coyotes possession at the Tabor 11. One play later, Prewett ran it in for the score.
Tabor countered that with a defensive gem by Evan Sprayberry, who deflected a Cordova lateral, scooped up the ball around the Tabor 36-yard line and ran the remaining 64 yards for the touchdown.
With the win, Tabor moved into a tie for first place in the KCAC race with Sterling at 5-1, and improved its season record to 5-2. Kansas Wesleyan slipped to 4-2 in conference play and 5-3 overall.
Coach Mike Gardner expressed excitement about the win and the play of his team.
“We can build on this,” he said. “Our offense in the second half was better, but not great. And the defense was unbelievable. We overcame some mistakes, and we converted plays when we needed to.”
Coming—Tabor will take on Friends University (3-3, 3-5) next Saturday with kickoff scheduled for high noon.