Tabor football: End of an era?

Isn’t winning fun? The football program at Tabor College has been living the dream. The Bluejays finished in a tie with Sterling for the KCAC championship with an 8-1 record. It’s the third consecutive year the Bluejays either tied or won the title outright.

The amazing thing is how few games were close. Tabor’s margin of victory in the games won was 53 over Bethel, by 31 over Ottawa, 20 over Saint Mary, 21 more than Southwestern, 21 more than Kansas Wesleyan, 31-point margin over Friends, 17 more than McPherson, and 44 more than Bethany.

Their only conference loss was by two points to Sterling on an extra play following a defensive penalty after time had expired.

Many of Sterling’s games were much closer as they beat Southwestern by 14, Kansas Wesleyan by three, Friends by one, Tabor by two, Bethel by five.

Tabor lost a nonconference game by 51 to powerhouse Morningside, which Sterling had the honor of facing in the playoffs. Oh yeah—facing Morningside didn’t work out any better for Sterling, as they lost by 56.

It was a strange season thanks to the weather. Three Tabor home games were postponed or delayed to Sundays because of lightning and storms in the area on Saturdays.

When Tabor’s season ended in November, the Bluejays had won more games on Sunday than the Denver Broncos of the NFL. Strange but true.

Thank goodness most teams in the KCAC aren’t too far removed from Hillsboro.

Moving the games to Sunday is a costly endeavor, especially for the visiting team, which needs to charter the buses for an extra day of travel.

Having to move the homecoming game from Saturday to Sunday hurt attendance, but the potential fallout from a lightning strike on the field or in the stands would be a lot more difficult to swallow.

This fall, my cousin attended a game at the University of Michigan that was delayed 45 minutes by rain and lightning, so even the big boys aren’t exempt from inclement weather.

My cousin said, “Fortunately the storm cell moved through and weather wasn’t any issue for players or fans when the game finally started. Telling 110,000 people to come back the next day would have been an issue.”

Back to the Bluejays—Tabor loses 26 seniors, and many outstanding players from this year’s team, which will hurt and raises the question whether it’s the end of an era. Winning championships isn’t easy.

After the last game, head coach Mike Gardner was quoted as saying the team will return at least 21 or 22 seniors next season, which indicates he’s not conceding anything.

Still, the Bluejays will need a good recruiting year to maintain the level of excellence they’ve presently attained.

Congratulations are in order to the Tabor coaching staff and players for another great season. As difficult as it is to reach the top, it’s arguably harder to stay there, although Tabor is doing its best to prove otherwise.

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Speaking of success, how about Tabor’s volleyball team? Coach Amy Ratzlaff’s Bluejays had another good regular season, but the season went from good to great when they won the KCAC tournament, earning the right to host Trinity Christian College in the opening round of the NAIA playoffs.

Hosting and winning a thrilling five-set match was icing on the cake, as was going to the national tournament in Iowa.

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I would be remiss not to congratulate Marion High School football coach Grant Thierolf on a long and successful coaching career. A record of 185-103 is nothing to sneeze at. But his influence on so many young men is undoubtedly far more significant.

No doubt he could have continued coaching for some time, but priorities change and he decided it was time to step aside. He plans to spend time in the fall watching his sons coach.

There’s little for me to add to what Janae Rempel wrote about coach Thierolf in an interview recently except, “Well done!”

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein­sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Klein­sasser@wichita.edu.