Tabor drops season opener vs. Ottawa, 35-26

Click to buy photo
Bluejays running back Demetrius Cox gets away from defender Bob Risch in the second quarter of Tabor?s 35-26 season-opening loss to Ottawa. Cox ran for 86 yards. Andrew Ottoson / Free Press

A pair of costly turnovers marred a strong effort by Tabor College during the opening contest of the season on Saturday.

Ottawa came to Reimer Field with a losing streak against the Bluejays that covered the past three seasons, but left with a 35-26 victory.

Tabor opened the scoring with a touchdown 4:17 into the game on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by DeJaun Jones. Ottawa senior Jermaine Thomas blocked the extra-point attempt, but the Bluejays led 6-0.

The Tabor defense forced a punt on Ottawa?s first possession, and the kick was downed at the Bluejay 5-yard line.

A lost fumble on the first play of Tabor?s second possession gave Ottawa its first red-zone scoring chance of the night with 7:15 left in the first quarter.

Ottawa scored in three plays to make it 6-6 at 5:48, then converted the extra-point kick to take the lead.

At 4:01 left, disaster struck again as Ottawa defensive back Kelly Albee crashed through to block Tabor?s first punt of the night. Braves defender Kevin Stewart recovered the live ball on one bounce and scurried into the end zone to give Ottawa a 14-6 advantage.

Tabor went three-and-out as the home crowd fell silent on the next possession. But Andy Bartell got the stands buzzing with a savvy play on Tabor?s next punt.

Bartell accelerated toward punt returner Matt Middleton?who elected not to call for a fair catch?and dealt a heavy hit that turned momentum back to the Tabor sideline.

Led by Zack Peters, who led the charge with two tackles for losses, the Bluejay defense forced a three-and-out, pushing Ottawa from first-and-10 at the 20 to fourth-and-25 at the 5.

At the start of the second quarter, Tabor scored its second touchdown of the night on a drive that covered 41 yards.

Facing third-and-five, a 10-yard burst by Demetrius Cox sustained the drive. Cox totaled 26 yards on three carries to set up the score. He finished with 86 rushing yards, 82 of which came in the first half.

A seven-yard carry by Tommy Philips brought Tabor within a yard, and Jones found Phil Unruh open in the end zone for the score.

A 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Tabor trailing 14-12 with 12:28 to go in the half.

Ottawa began its next possession at its own 34 and advanced to the Tabor 35 on a 15-yard catch by Middleton and a 16-yard run by Vashon Perryman.

But Tabor?s Pedro Flores, a freshman linebacker, pounced on a fumble by quarterback Kevin Mikeska to stop the Braves in their tracks.

Tabor took over at the 43, ran 12 plays and advanced 55 yards, all the way to the Ottawa 5-yard line, where another costly turnover swung the advantage back to the visitors.

Mikeska started two steps out of his own end zone and capped a 98-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard scramble.

But before Mikeska scored, the Tabor defense appeared to have stopped the Braves short as Mikeska threw incomplete on third-and-goal from nine yards away. But an official threw a flag for pass interference, giving Ottawa a first down at the 2.

Mikeska scored on the next play, and the half ended with Ottawa ahead, 21-12.

Because Tabor elected to receive in the first half, Ottawa took the kickoff in the second half and scored again, making it 28-12 and all but ending the game with 12:40 to go in the third quarter.

But Bartell electrified the crowd again with a 41-yard return on the ensuing kickoff.

Jones dropped back to throw on fourth-and-12, and found Caleb Marsh open for a 41-yard touchdown pass at 11:32 of the third quarter. Tabor again came up short on the 2-point conversion, and trailed 28-18.

The Braves couterpunched with a long kickoff return of their own.

All-conference kicker Derik Martinez brought down returner Tyrone Jenkins near midfield, and Ottawa covered the remaining 53 yards in 10 plays.

Tabor appeared to have stopped Ottawa for a three-and-out, but a five-yard penalty on fourth-and-4 gave the Braves another first down.

Five of Ottawa?s 22 first downs came by way of Tabor penalty.

The teams then traded punts. Sophomore linebacker Dustin Eagleburger cut down Perryman a yard shy of the marker on third-and-two, and Tabor began its final scoring drive of the night.

Jones completed a 17-yard pass to Marsh and a 16-yarder to Matthew Dean as time ran out in the third quarter.

Jones scrambled for a 5-yard gain to open the fourth and handed off to Kelly Walker for a 27-yard touchdown run on the next play.

Walker also ran in the 2-point conversion, and the Bluejays trailed 35-26 with 14:21 to go.

Ottawa consumed 6:00 on its next drive. Bartell again made the big play for the Bluejays, intercepting Mikeska?s bid for a 12-yard touchdown pass a yard outside the Tabor end zone and weaving his way out to the 21.

With the clock and the Braves applying tremendous pressure, Tabor turned to its passing attack.

Facing third-and-four, Jones was flushed out of the pocket. He ran to his left and found no open receivers in front of him, then reversed his field and threw a deep strike to Lance Stubbs, who had found an opening along the Ottawa sideline.

Jones then converted a fourth-and-eight with a 12-yard toss to Jason Medellin.

Medellin was tackled eight yards shy of the goal line, and Tabor came no closer the rest of the way.

Coming?Tabor (0-1) will travel to Sterling College (0-1) on Saturday. The Warriors, who defeated Tabor 20-7 in Hillsboro last season, dropped their 2007 opener to Friends, 24-13.

More from Hillsboro Free Press
Proposed budget would cut $915,000 from Prairie View
Though potential state funding cuts to school budgets have received the most...
Read More