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Football - Mon, Oct. 2, 2017

Box Score

              Leavenworth, KS- The University of Saint Mary Spires dug themselves in an immediate 21-0 hole and were unable to overcome it in a 44-24 loss to #17 Tabor College on Saturday in Hillsboro.  A painfully slow start by Saint Mary helped the Bluejays to a 21-0 lead just 7 minutes and 29 seconds into the game, before the teams battled evenly for the rest of the contest.  Drew Cortez led the Saint Mary offense with 351 passing yards, while Isai Fernandez caught two touchdowns from Cortez, and Chandler Cocklin had 10 tackles to lead the Spires on defense. 

               Saint Mary received the opening kickoff; however, they were forced to punt following a three and out.  Following a third down touchdown by the Bluejays, Cortez was intercepted and four plays later, the Bluejays were in the end zone to make it 14-0.  Saint Mary fumbled on the ensuing drive on 2nd and 4, and 1 minute and 9 seconds later, the Bluejays made it 21-0 with 7:31 remaining in the first quarter.  The games' momentum changed later in the first quarter when the Bluejays recovered a Cortez fumble, then, a Spire forced the fumble, which was recovered by Josh Smith, igniting the Spires.  Michael Brown made a 1st down catch the next play for 10 yards, and although the drive ended in a missed field goal, Saint Mary had more confidence in their step. 

                  Saint Mary's defense showed up to start the second quarter, forcing consecutive three and outs to begin stanza.  An incompletion on the first third down and a Fredrick Crawley tackle for loss of 14 yards following a fumbled snap led to the three and outs.  Saint Mary took over on the Tabor 20 following a Bluejay punt and Cortez began dissecting the Tabor defense, the biggest chunk being a 65-yard pass completion to Tae Turner on 3rd and 4.  Zach Hilliard carried the ball on the next two plays to get the Spires to the Bluejay 4-yard line; before Cortez found Andre Long in the corner of the end zone to make the score, 21-7 after Kevin Garcia's PAT was good.  The touchdown ended an eight play, 80-yard drive.  Following a long kick return, Tabor answered the Saint Mary touchdown with a seven play, 45-yard touchdown drive to make it 28-7 before the half. 

                   The Bluejays received to begin the second half and they were threatening to score, but Nick Holmes intercepted Curry Parham on 1st and 10 from the Spire 28 in the end zone to give Saint Mary their first interception of the season.  The Spires offense answered with a 7-play, 53 yard drive, highlighted by a Bryan Barnhart 31-yard reception that ended in a Spire field goal attempt from 44 yards which was good by Kevin Garcia.  It was the longest made field goal of Garcia's career.  Following a field goal answer by the Bluejays to make it 31-10, Saint Mary drove 80 yards on and 11-play drive to cut the lead to 31-17 in favor of Tabor.  Josh Smith kicked off the drive with a 9-yard carry, Abel Morales had a first down conversion on an 8-yard reception, and Barnhart and Turner had 13 and 15-yard receptions respectively.  Cortez found Isai Fernandez in the flat after buying time in the pocket, and Fernandez did the rest as he dove for the pylon to finish the drive.  The touchdown was Fernandez's second of the season. 

                     In the fourth quarter, the back and forth contest continued as Tabor tacked on a touchdown to start and end the quarter, while Cortez found Fernandez again in the end zone for Saint Mary from 21 yards out.  The touchdown was the third time this season Fernandez has found pay dirt on a pass from Cortez, and it was Fernandez's 11th career touchdown reception.  Tabor's late touchdown drive yielded the final score of 44-24 in favor of the Bluejays. 

                  Cortez was 30/48 passing for 351 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.  He also rushed for 26 yards for Saint Mary.  Barnhart led the Spires in receiving with 10 receptions for 103 yards, Turner had six receptions for 97 yards, and Fernandez had 67 receiving yards on his six receptions including his two touchdowns.  The Spires earned 24 first downs on the day.  Chandler Cocklin tallied 9 tackles and a pass break up, Josh Green had 7 tackles, Holmes had 4 tackles in addition to his interception, and Dwain Taylor was noted as having an outstanding game against the Bluejays vaunted Triple Option attack. 

               Saint Mary returns to Charles J. Berker Memorial Stadium on Saturday, October 6, for the Homecoming game against undefeated Bethany.  The game will kick off at 1:30 PM.