The No. 11 Tabor College football team cruised to a 34-7 victory at Friends Saturday.
?We did a good job of running the football, and our defense just played phenomenal,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?(The Falcons) were 0-for-11 on third down.?
The teams traded punts on the game?s first five possessions before Tabor punched in its first score late in the opening quarter.
Joseph Donnell got the handoff on first down and took it 40 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, giving Tabor a 6-0 lead, which held through the end of the first quarter.
The Bluejays scored on their next possession, aided by a 64-yard punt return by Charles Beale that put Tabor at the Friends 5-yard line. It took three plays for the Bluejays to score, this time on a 3-yard carry by Ontreveon Cooper. Jared Slavens? kick made it 13-0 with 13:19 left in the half.
The punt return and ensuing score was a turning point in the game, Gardner said.
?It was kind of back and forth there for awhile,? he said. ?Their front four on defense is as good as anybody we’ve faced in the conference, so I was really proud of the offensive line play.?
Friends missed a 40-yard field goal, and Tabor managed one more score before intermission, piecing together a seven-play, 50 yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by D?Marco Smith. Tabor?s 20-0 advantage held through halftime.
Quarterback Simon McKee left the game with a shoulder sprain on Tabor?s first possession of the third quarter, putting Trey Schmidt under center. The 88-yard, nine-play drive was capped by a 50-yard score by Donnell, giving Tabor a 27-0 lead after Slavens? kick. The Bluejays took that margin into the final quarter of play.
Friends scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, thanks to a 60-yard touchdown pass that capped a four-play, 74-yard drive. The PAT kick made it 27-7 with 14:51 left in the game.
Tabor polished its victory with one final score with 1:58 left in the game. The eight-play, 65-yard drive was capped by a 3-yard run by Jonah McKee. Slavens? kick brought it to the final, 34-7, margin.
A game-ending interception sealed Tabor?s victory.
?Trey Schmidt came in in the second half and led us to two touchdown drives,? Gardner said. ?In the second half, our offensive line did a good job of moving guys up front and our run game was very good, and we complemented that with a few key passes.?
Tabor rolled up 364 yards of offense, including 300 rushing yards. Donnell led the Bluejay ground game with 10 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, McKee was 4-for-11 for 64 yards. Gardner said he expects McKee to return this week.
Dylan Delk, who was named KCAC Defensive Player of the Week, and Derrick Lawrence each contributed eight tackles, including four tackles for a loss each. The Tabor defense recorded five sacks, led by Evan Sprayberry with 21?2, for a total loss of 41 yards.
Tabor limited Friends to 113 yards of offense. The Falcons netted -19 rushing yards on 32 carries.
Coming?Tabor (6-0, 7-1), who remains at No. 11 in the NAIA Coaches? Top 25 poll, will play at McPherson (0-6, 0-7) Saturday at 1 p.m.