Tabor drops season finale, posts first winless conference record since 1999

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Demetrius Cox rumbles past the first-down marker as teammate Darrin Fisher finishes off a block on a Coyote linebacker. Tabor?s most efficient running back, Cox gained 74 yards in the game and finished the season with 684 total yards. Andrew Ottoson / Free Press

Tabor College ended its football season with a 38-7 loss at Kansas Wesleyan Saturday.

Preston McCorkle put up 219 rushing yards and led the Coyotes to their fifth win of the season.

?Our run defense just wasn?t very good,? coach Mike Gottsch said. ?You didn?t have to look too hard at stats to see what teams were doing with us on the ground?and to win in this conference, you have to be able to stop the run.?

Tabor (1-9) finished without a conference win for the first time since 1999.

The Bluejays put together several sequences of good plays, including a series set off by a 28-yard pass between Anthony Davis and Matthew Dean midway through the third quarter.

After the long play, Davis dropped back to throw and slipped to the turf, where he was senselessly belted by a Coyote defender, turning a potential third-and-14 into a first down at the KWU 24. Two plays later, Davis ran 16 yards to light the scoreboard with the Bluejays only points of the contest.

Derik Martinez added the point-after kick, making it 31-7 with 1:26 left in the third quarter.

Turnovers, a familiar nemesis throughout the season, again hampered Tabor?s offensive effort and came at particularly inopportune moments in the first half.

?The game unfolded as what?s plagued us all year,? Gottsch said. ?I felt like we did some decent things at times, but that the inconsistencies were prevalent.?

After back-to-back punts started the game, the Bluejays appeared to be clicking, crossing into Coyote territory for the first time when Davis threaded a pass to Steven Branham for a 24-yard gain.

But two snaps later, senior linebacker Brandon McGinn sacked Davis and forced the first of three fumbles that marred an otherwise efficient effort on offense.

Defensive tackle Matt Case recovered the loose ball at the KWU 44, and five McCorkle runs gave the Coyotes a 7-0 lead.

After a sack by TJ Jackson forced KWU into a third-and-8 just inside the Tabor 30, McCorkle knifed 25 yards through the Tabor defense to set up the score.

A three-and-out started the Coyotes? second series at their own 43. KWU got 40 yards on the ground via four McCorkle runs, and added 22 more on a pair of 11-yard bursts by Steven Valliere, setting up a 1-yard pass from Drew Dallas to Derryl Hill on the third play of the second quarter.

Troy Van Blarcom drilled the extra point, and the Coyotes led 14-0. Van Blarcom?s two previous kicks had cleared the end zone, but his third was returned 20 yards by Jason Medellin.

The Tabor offense put together a drive that advanced 41 yards in nine plays but came to an abrupt halt when defensive lineman Dustin Trimble pounced on Tabor?s second fumble of the day.

?It?s unexplainable, the turnovers we had,? Gottsch said.

The Bluejay defense earned its second stop of the day, stuffing runs by Valliere and Dallas for short losses to bring on the punter.

Demetrius Cox broke his longest run of the day on first down, taking an option pitch from Davis and roaring around the right side of the KWU line. He shook off a tackler and was dragged down by the facemask at the Tabor 35. The illegal tackle added 15 penalty yards to the run, and Tabor was in business at midfield.

The Bluejays went for the throat, with Davis rolling out and uncorking a 49-yard throw to Caleb Marsh, who was brought down by the beaten defender 2 yards shy of the end zone.

But a fumble cost Tabor its possession on the next play, and KWU made it 21-0 4:23 later.

?We got it down inside the 5 again, and it could have been 14-7 before half,? Gottsch said. ?It showed we?re a team that did some good things at times but that we?re unable to compete if we stay where we?re at.?

The Coyote drive began at the 5-yard line, with McCorkle carrying five straight times to set up a third-and-1 at their own 25.

A pass to Marcus Lowe went for 41 yards, and Valliere punched it in from 30 yards out with 1:33 left in the half.

The Coyotes added 10 more points early in the third quarter, aided by a 45-yard kick return by Vailliere to open the frame. Nine plays later, Brad Cintas rumbled into the end zone from 6 yards, making it 28-0 at 10:50.

Tabor went three-and-out, and KWU put together a nine-play series to set up a 38-yard field goal by Van Blarcom.

Then came Tabor?s lone scoring drive, after which the Coyotes needed only 1:26 to counter.

An ugly kickoff followed when Martinez lost his footing just as he made contact with the ball, leading to an uglier return. The Coyotes fumbled twice?they recovered both?and the play ended with a personal foul against Tabor.

Taking over at midfield, McCorkle carried for 36 yards on three plays, setting up a 12-yard play-action pass to Cintas as time ran out in the quarter.

The fourth quarter began with Van Blarcom?s fourth touchback of the game. Tabor drove 45 yards on 11 plays, overcame a holding penalty and reached the KWU 27 before a sack snapped Davis out of his rhythm.

The Coyotes got a 19-yard run from McCorkle on his final play, and the 225-pound junior finished the day without being tackled for a loss.

The run set off a string of 12 straight runs by seven different Coyotes that chewed up 7:59 of Tabor?s final quarter in 2007.

The Bluejays got the ball back inside their own 10 with 1:57 left in the season and marched 65 yards before a sack on second-and-2 drained the clock.

Kansas Wesleyan (5-5) snapped a four-game losing streak with a dominate showing, as 10 Coyotes carried the ball for 362 yards between them.

For Tabor, Cox netted 74 yards, Kelly Walker 43 and Davis 25 on the ground. Davis went 15-for-26 through the air and did not throw an interception despite being sacked four times.

Marsh caught six passes for 88 yards in his last game.

With the season completed, Gottsch and the Bluejays set their sites on off-season objectives.

?We have to recruit well at key spots this off-season and we have to take advantage of our off-season strength-and-conditioning program,? Gottsch said. ?We need to become more physical as a team, and the way to become more physical is to work hard in the off-season.

?But I feel like we?ve got a good base and a good nucleus and I?m very excited about the challenge of building a good football team,? he added. ?It?s our job as coaches to improve on our weaknesses and it?s on our players to do the same thing.?

Gottsch said that stopping opposing runners more effectively next year is a high priority.

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