Top ranked Morningside smashed No. 8 Tabor 51-6 to advance to the semifinals of the NAIA Football Championship Series for the fourth year in a row. Photo / Gene Knudsen
Morningside is headed to the NAIA Football Championship Series Semifinals for the fourth year in a row after the top ranked Mustangs crushed No. 8 Tabor 51-6 in Saturday’s quarterfinal round contest at Elwood Olsen Stadium.
Morningside will host defending NAIA National Champion Southern Oregon next Saturday at noon, while Marian will travel to Saint Francis in the other semifinal.
Saturday’s lopsided triumph against the Bluejays was the ninth win in a row for Morningside, which improved its record to 12-1. Tabor, which had a 10-game winning streak end, closed the books on an 11-2 campaign.
Morningside entered the game as the highest scoring team in the nation with a scoring average in excess of 60 points per game and won the battle against a Tabor team that was second in the nation in scoring defense. The Mustangs’ 51 points was just shy of four times the average of 13.2 points per game the Bluejays had yielded in their previous 12 games. To Tabor’s credit, it held the Mustangs without a touchdown in the first quarter and the Mustangs’ 477 yards total offense was their third lowest output of the season.
Tabor was never able to mount a consistent offensive attack against the Morningside defense, which held the Bluejays to 236 yards total offense, including only 38 yards passing. Simon McKee, this year’s Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Offensive Player of the Year, was ineffective when he took to the air, completing only six of 16 pass attempts. Two of his passes were intercepted by Morningside senior linebacker Ethan Stofferan, who was named the Game’s Outstanding Defensive Player.
Joseph Donnell, who had rushed for 1009 yards in Tabor’s previous 12 games, was ineffective with only 23 yards in 10 carries and the Mustangs also put the clamps on the big play receiver in the Bluejays’ passing game by limiting Kaden Anderson to just two catches for a scant 11 yards.
Aside from his two interceptions, which tied a Morningside post-season record, Stofferan also had six tackles and a pass breakup.
Chad Berg and Logan Rozeboom each had eight tackles to share Morningside honors, while Derrick Dison had five stops and a pair of pass breakups.
Morningside’s Tyler Kavan was named the Game’s Outstanding Offensive Player after he rushed for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 20 attempts and also caught four passes that went for 77 yards.
Kavan’s 100-yard rushing performance pushed his season’s output to 1252 yards for the fifth highest single-season rushing yardage total in Morningside history.
The Mustangs’ other offensive standouts were Ryan Kasdorf, who completed 16 of 31 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns, and Connor Niles, who had five pass receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Jared Amundson set a Morningside post-season record with three field goals, including three-pointers from 29 and 35 yards on the Mustangs’ first two offensive possessions to give the hosts an early 6-0 lead.
The Mustangs’ finally broke through for a touchdown with 12:15 left in the second quarter when Kasdorf delivered a 46-yard bomb to Connor Niles to put the Mustangs up 13-0 with 12:15 left in the second quarter.
The Kasdorf to Niles touchdown strike ignited a 17-point Morningside second quarter that put the Mustangs in control by the intermission. Kavan scored the Mustangs’ second touchdown of the period on a 13-yard run with 4:03 left in the second quarter before Amundson kicked a 28-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half that sent the Mustangs into the intermission with a 23-0 lead.
Any comeback hopes Tabor may have harbored were quickly squashed on the third play of the third quarter when the Bluejays fumbled the ball away to the Mustangs’ Austin Allen on their own 21-yard line. Morningside cashed in two plays later on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kasdorf to Jason Vander Kooi to go up 30-0 with 13:13 left in the third quarter.
The Mustangs added two more third quarter touchdowns on a 29-yard run by Austin Ebertowski and a 12-yard scoring dash by Kavan to take a 44-0 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs made it 51-0 on a one-yard touchdown run by Ebertowski with 10:24 left in the game. Ebertowski finished with 52 yards in seven attempts for an average of 7.4 yards per carry.
Tabor avoided a shutout when it scored on its final offensive possession on a five-yard touchdown run by Ontreveo Cooper to cap an eight-play, 54-yard drive.
Rustyn Kerb rushed for 56 yards in 11 attempts and Cooper had 52 yards in eight carries to lead the Tabor offense.
Tabor’s Derrick Lawrence collected a game-high 12 tackles and the Bluejays’ Dylan Delk, the KCAC Defensive Player of the Year, had nine tackles, including 1.5 quarterback sacks.