Atchinson, Kan. - The 11th Tabor College Football team advanced into the quarterfinals of the NAIA championship series with a hard fought 14-13 win over the 8th ranked Benedictine College Ravens this past Saturday in Atchinson, Kan.
The Bluejays used a safety, blocked PAT, and a key fumble recovery late to secure the first round win. The Bluejays were also the only road team in the opening round of the championship series to come away with a victory.
Senior Tyler Davis led the offense with his playmaking ability and was awarded the game's most valuable offensive player. Davis finished with 94-yards rushing and one TD. Senior James Monroe Jr. and freshman Cody Coleman chipped in with 75 and 48 yards on the ground respectively, as the Bluejays totaled 255-yards rushing for the day.
The Tabor defense set the tone for the majority of the game. The Jays defense held the Ravens offense in check for the second and third quarter – only giving up 32 total yards in both quarters combined. Ben Gardner led the way with nine tackles while Nik France added eight tackles of his own.
Benedictine got off to a quick start by taking their first drive of the game all the way down to the Tabor 8-yard line, before turning the ball over on downs. After a Tabor fumble, Ravens quarterback Bill Noonan connected with Jerrin Walton on a 9-yard strike to give them an early 7-0 lead.
After trading defensive stops, Tabor finished the first half with an 8-minute, 20-play drive, that covered 83-yards ending in a Davis touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, leaving the score at 7-6 going into the half.
In the third quarter Tabor took advantage of a Benedictine fumble to setup its second touchdown drive of the game. Senior quarterback Ryan Nelson connected with Monroe on a 4-yard pass to give Tabor its first lead of the game. The two point conversion failed as Tabor led 12-7.
After a quick three and out, Tabor started another long, time consuming drive. The Bluejays had driven the ball 75-yards and had a first and goal from the 5-yard line, but were unable to capitalize as they coughed up their second fumble on the day. Tabor however recovered two plays later, sacking Noonin in the end zone for a safety, giving the Jays a touchdown advantage at 14-7.
Benedictine responded in the fourth quarter by putting together its own 80-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Noonan to Christian Hack. Tabor was able to hold on to a narrow lead when the PAT was blocked.
Tabor was unable to move the ball in the fourth quarter finishing with back-to-back three and outs. Late in the fourth, the Ravens connected on four straight passes and drove the ball down to the Tabor 4-yard line. With seven seconds remaining Benedictine turned the ball over for the second time in the half as Tabor came up with the recovery before a game winning field goal could be attempted. Sophomore Dylan Delk made the crucial recovery.
The Bluejays will advance to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Football Championship series where they will take on nationally ranked No. 2 Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. The quarterfinal matchup is scheduled for Saturday Nov. 30, with game time set for 1 p.m.