Opportunities elude Tabor in 35-19 loss to Kansas Wesleyan
The last time the Bluejays saw Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes in the last year’s regular season finale at Hillsboro, the Coyotes hung 63 points up while walloping Tabor, 63-34.
The Bluejays stayed in the game for nearly the entire first half before falling out of contention near halftime.
With the collapse possibly the last impression for the football team, Tabor appeared poised for payback Saturday in the season opener at Salina Stadium.
Much to the chagrin of both the Bluejays and coach Mike Gottsch, three straight Wesleyan touchdowns were enough to keep Tabor down for a 35-19 loss.
Considering last year’s carnage and a tough team to open the season with, Tabor has reason to feel good.
The one thing that makes the loss a tough one to swallow, is the number of chances the Bluejays had.
For nearly one quarter, Tabor was in the driver’s seat after Nick Brown intercepted Doug Webster on first down at the Coyote 38.
Former Hillsboro standout Daniel Jost showed signs of big things to come with five catches for a game-high 121 yards.
Bluejays quarterback Marc Amos threw for a game-high 153 yards on 50 percent passing to help Tabor to 223 yards.
The two connected for a 37-yard gain to have the Bluejays knocking on the door at the 1.
Washington finished the drive plunging in, and Stephen Gulledge made for a 7-0 game nearly 3 minutes into action.
Tabor’s defense limited the Coyotes to 4 yards less than the Bluejays’ 330 yards total.
After holding the Coyotes to three-and-out, Washington got Tabor rolling again, ripping off nearly half his 70 yards, rushing with a 34-yard run to move to the KW 43.
A big fumble on second down cost the Bluejays 5 yards, Tabor was unable to convert on third-and-14, and Gulledge attempted to stretch the lead.
Third downs were a sore spot for the Bluejays last year —especially against the Coyotes — and they were a modest 3-for-14 Saturday.
Special teams also have been a fly in Tabor’s ointment and still were Saturday with Gulledge’s 48-yard field goal attempt sailing wide left.
Tabor caught a big break with its defense forcing KW’s next drive to stall at the Bluejays 34 and punt.
The Coyotes are a good enough team to win without a short field, much less any help.
The Bluejays gave them both with a bad snap at their own 20 being recovered by Kansas Wesleyan’s Anthony Luna at the 8, and a pivotal pass interference call.
Two plays later, Webster had the game tied up on a 1-yard keeper with just over 2:00 left in the first quarter.
Tabor missed a great chance to take the lead on the opening drive of the second quarter.
That was dashed when Ken Mitchell intercepted Joey Erickson at KW’s 17.
It didn’t cost the Bluejays anything, but field position did with four of the Coyotes’ five scoring drives starting from Tabor’s 47, or closer.
KWU took advantage of the short field to go up, 14-7, by halftime, capping a 7-play, 47-yard drive with a 14-yard pass from Webster to Cory Hamm.
Tabor had one last crack at points before halftime after Erickson hit Jost for a 30-yard game.
The first half ended with Gulledge’s 51-yard field goal attempt again sailing wide left.
Jake Winship was another thorn in Tabor’s side, punishing the Bluejays for a game-high 30 carries for 148 yards on the ground and two touchdowns — 41 yards more than the Bluejays’ entire ground output.
Corey Tate’s 65-yard kick return to start the second half had the Coyotes in business at the Bluejays 32 with Gulledge making a touchdown-saving tackle.
Winship got 22 yards on the drive, scoring on first-and-goal from the 10 to increase the Coyote lead to 21-7.
Tabor wasted little time answering with Amos going deep on third for Washington on a 69-yard touchdown.
The PAT attempt hit the left upright and Tabor was down 21-13, at 3:01 into the second half.
Penalties hammered the Bluejays, too — 10 for 87 yards —taking them out of great field position on their next drive, and wasting 4:35.
If one drive killed Tabor more than any, it was the second one of the third quarter.
Washington broke free for a 17-yard gain to get Tabor into KW territory and Amos hit Jost to get the Bluejays to the 30.
Back-to-back penalties and a sack left the Bluejays looking at an insurmountable second-and-47.
Winship struck again, taking it in from the 1, and basically put the game out of reach with 3:32 still left in the third, capping a 45-yard drive.
More penalties and more of Webster, and Winship helped make it a 35-13 game with 5:46 to go.
A 43-yard bomb from Erickson to Jost had Tabor down to the KWU 33, and two plays later, Marquise Lawrence raced in for a 33-yard TD for the final.
Lawrence tried for the two-point conversion, but was denied.
The Bluejays open the season at home on the new AstroTurf of Wiens Stadium Saturday, hosting the Bethany Swedes with a 7 p.m. start.