Blake Ridgeway (96), Kasey Kaiser (58), and Weston Mills (94) take down Bethel's Garrett Herbert (16) during the second quarter of Saturday's game. Southwestern accumulated 6.5 sacks throughout the game and won 21-20 over the Threshers to improve to 2-6 overall, 2-5 in conference.

Blake Ridgeway (96), Kasey Kaiser (58), and Weston Mills (94) take down Bethel's Garrett Herbert (16) during the second quarter of Saturday's game. Southwestern accumulated 6.5 sacks throughout the game and won 21-20 over the Threshers to improve to 2-6 overall, 2-5 in conference. Clint Dick / photographer

If there is one team in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference that is desperate for a win, it’s Tabor College.

Coming into Saturday’s game against Southwestern the Blue Jays are 0-8. “The way I see it is that they are coming into my house trying to beat me,” said Thaddeus Carrena, senior defensive lineman. “I am not looking at their record because they are coming to win just like we are. I see them just as any other opponent.” Tabor is coming off of a 43-10 loss at home to McPherson College.

Offensively, they have struggled to keep up with the elite teams in the KCAC. They rank last in pass efficiency with a 97.3 efficiency rating, and a 7-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. They have allowed 30 sacks this season. With a 22.30 percent third-down conversion rate, the Blue Jays are also dead last in the conference in third-down percentage.

The defense hasn’t performed much better. Tabor is ranked last in almost every major defensive category including scoring defense, sacks per game, and total defensive yards allowed. Their 45.1 points per game and 488.6 yards per game shows how severely the Blue Jays have struggled to keep opposing offenses off the field and out of the endzone.

After a 48-7 loss at McPherson on Oct. 24, the Moundbuilders clashed heads with conference rival Bethel at home. The game featured two evenly matched teams in an up and down battle for bragging rights in the lower section of the KCAC standings.

The Builders found themselves in a hole early on as Lance Evans, freshman running back, fumbled on Southwestern’s second possession. “We got back into turnover mode again,” said Ken Crandall, head football coach. “We have been playing good football we just need to keep it going.”
 
On the ensuing play, Garrett Hiebert, junior quarterback, connected with Jeremy Newhouse, senior fullback, for a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Threshers an early lead.
Newhouse would go on to score again after Southwestern’s Jordan Barrett, freshman quarterback, fumbled on the Builder two-yard line. Two plays later, Newhouse found the endzone on a one-yard run to increase the Thresher lead to 14-0.

On the Builders ensuing drive, Barrett hit Dillon Fowler, freshman wide receiver, deep for a 40-yard gain. “I’m not the primary route on that play,” said Fowler. “I just found a hole in the zone and Barrett hit me for a big gain.” That would set up a crisp pass from Barrett to Jeff Schaefer, junior wide receiver, for a 13-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

The Builders continued to find success through the air as Barrett connected with Schaefer again with 10:22 left in the half. This time Barrett found Schaefer wide open in the middle of the field. Schaefer hauled in the pass and ran the rest of the way to the endzone for a 33-yard touchdown to knot the score up at 14.

With just 0:45 left in the half, the Builder defense made arguably the biggest play of the game. With Bethel driving into Southwestern territory, Hiebert passed to Lance Francis, senior wide receiver, in the flat. Southwestern’s Nick Koch, junior defensive back, forced Francis to fumble and Josh Plummer, sophomore linebacker, recovered the ball and ran it back 49 yards for a Moundbuilder touchdown. The score gave the purple and white a 21-14 lead going into the locker rooms.

Neither team could muster much offense in the third quarter until Jarrett Abell, sophomore running back, broke a screen pass from Heibert wide open for a 34-yard Thresher touchdown. The extra point attempt by Ren Scherling, sophomore kicker, was unsuccessful as the Builders kept a narrow 21-20 lead going into the final quarter.

Bethel drove the ball down to the Builder one-yard line on their next possession. With their backs against a wall, the Builder defense once again came up big as they denied the Threshers a touchdown on three straight plays. “Our coaches prepare us for big plays like that every week,” said Carrena. “We are a good defense and we were happy to show everyone our talent.” The field goal attempt by Scherling on fourth down went wide right as Southwestern continued to cling to their one-point lead.

With 5:28 left on the clock, the Threshers went on an eight play, 36-yard drive. The drive stalled on the Builder 21-yard line and the field goal unit was sent on the field with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The kick by Lee Voth-Gaeddert, sophomore wide receiver, was missed wide right.

The Builder offense was able to run out the remaining time left on the clock as Southwestern picked up their second win of the season 21-20 over Bethel.

On paper both teams finished the game just as evenly as the score anticipates. Bethel narrowly outgained the Builders in total yards 258-211. Each team struggled to find success in the running game. “You have to give Bethel credit, they really buckled down on us in the run game,” said Crandall. “We found ourselves a lot of times on second and long or third and long.” The Threshers ended the game with 33 yards on 32 carries, while the Builders netted 0 yards on 30 carries.
 
Barrett ended the day with good numbers as he completed 18 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Both Schaefer and Fowler had big days receiving for the Builders as Schaefer hauled in six passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, and Fowler had four catches for 57 yards.

The defense for the Builders also came up big forcing two big turnovers and getting 6.5 sacks. “As a unit we played pretty good,” said Carrena. “We gave up a few big plays and there is always room for improvement.”

The Builders are 2-6 heading into their game with Tabor. Kickoff starts at 1:30 p.m. and it will be the final game played at Sonner Stadium.

Clint Dick is a freshman majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail him at clinton.dick@sckans.edu.