Tabor defeats Lyon in opener

Jonah McKee looks for positive yardage with some hard running during Tabor?s season-opener at Lyon College Saturday. McKee tallied 67 yards on three carries in Tabor?s 45-21 victory. The game was Lyon?s first since 1951. Photo Courtesy John Krueger / Lyon College

The Tabor College football team used a monstrous third-quarter to overpower Lyon College (Ark.) on the road Saturday, 45-21.

The Bluejays, ranked 22nd nationally, trailed the Scots, 14-10, at halftime, but scored four unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to take control.

The Scots, who were playing their first football game since 1951, scored two plays into the contest on a 56-yard touchdown jaunt by their leading rusher Michael Bowles, who burned the Bluejays for 197 yards on 13 first-half carries.

Tabor answered at the end of its second possession, settling for a 42-yard Jared Slavens field goal despite starting the eight-play drive at the Lyon 32.

The Scots? 7-3 lead held through the end of the first quarter, which ended with Tabor on the move. Ben Bebermeyer punched in a 1-yard score two plays into the second period to push Tabor in front, 10-7.

Bowles sliced through the defense for a 70-yard gain during Lyon?s second drive of the quarter, setting up a Scot score two plays later.

With a lockdown effort on defense, Tabor could have held the lead at halftime, were it not for two lost fumbles in the red zone.

Despite trailing by four at halftime, the Bluejays did not panic.

?We didn?t lose our composure,??coach Mike Gardner said. ?Our kids came out in the second half, and we took advantage of some things that they were doing and responded well.?

The Bluejays stepped up their blocking and tackling on defense, limiting Bowles to just 34 yards on 15 carries after the break.

Offensively, junior transfer Joseph Don?nell provided the spark Tabor needed, bulldozing his way to 115 yards on four second-half touches. Donnell got the nod on back-to-back plays out of the locker room, covering 50 yards to set up a D?Marco Smith score two plays later.

The Bluejays, who simply had more experience at their disposal, were just getting started.

A Lyon fumble led to a 37-yard touchdown run by Donnell on first down. A Scot fumble four plays into the next drive put Tabor?s offense back on the field.

It took 12 plays for the Bluejays to score, this time on a 1-yard keeper by Simon McKee, extending Tabor?s lead to 31-14 with 4:35 left in the third period.

Tabor?s defense forced a Lyon three-and-out to bring McKee and company back out to face a tiring Lyon defense. In just two plays, Tabor was in the end zone, this time on a 28-yard carry by Donnell. The 38-14 score held through the end of the third quarter.

The Bluejays? final points came with 12:43 to play when Smith ran for a 2-yard score.

Lyon countered with a 79-yard touchdown pass three plays in, bringing the score to the final margin. It appeared the Scots might piece together a final scoring drive only to have the drive end at the Tabor 7.

Gardner spoke highly of the young Lyon program.

?They?re going to be a playoff-caliber team in three years because all they?ve done for the last two years is recruit,??he said. ?They are well-coached. They?ve got the perfect scheme for what they want to accomplish, and I?ve got a lot of respect for them.

?We did not think that we were going to go in there and blow them out. That wasn’t the case at all. We knew that it was going to be a dogfight.?

Both teams favored the ground game. Tabor rolled up 415 yards of total offense, including 327 on the ground. Two Bluejays reached 100 yards for the day: Donnell with eight carries for 140 yards and Smith with 18 carries for 100 yards.

Through the air, McKee was 8-for-12 for 90 yards.

Derrick Lawrence led the defense with 14 total tackles.

Lyon finished with 371 yards of offense, including 223 yards on the ground.

Coming?Tabor will play its first home game of the season Saturday when No. 12 Northwestern College from Orange City, Iowa, travels to Hillsboro. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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