BATESVILLE, AR (LYON) – Early on, the Lyon College football team looked anything like a squad made up of 94 percent true or redshirt freshmen, as the Scots gave 22nd-ranked Tabor College 'a firm right cross' and took a 14-10 lead at halftime in front of a near-capacity crowd at Pioneer Stadium. But, despite a dominating ground game led by Michael Bowles (JR/Earle, Ark.), who rushed for 231 yards and a pair of scores, the Scots couldn't hang on, dropping a 45-21 decision Saturday.
A mentally drained Lyon head coach Kirk Kelley was beaming with pride when he talked about his team in a postgame interview. "I couldn't be prouder of these kids," Kelley stated on his postgame show on KZLE Radio (93.1-FM). "These kids played their hearts out. They left it all on the field. They believed they were going to win today, and they went out there early and delivered a blow to Tabor.
"But (the Bluejays coaching staff) made some adjustments in their defensive front at the half and they were able to move the football better in the second half and wore us down. That's a great football team, but I think we made huge strides today."
Lyon looked anything but a program that hadn't played a game in 64 years when the game started. On just the second play after the opening kickoff, Bowles brought the crowd of 2,844 to its feet when he broke off left tackle and sprinted to the endzone from 56 yards out. Osvaldo Espericueta (FR/Batesville, Ark.) nailed the point after, and just 57 seconds into the inaugural season, the Scots were literally off and running, 7-0.
"That was a great start," Kelley said, talking about the opening score. "We came out ready to play and really took it to them. That's what we have to do every game. We have to make big plays when we have the opportunity. Michael (Bowles) was a man out there today, and he set the tone with that first run."
Bowles averaged an impressive 8.3-yards per carry in the game, and was the leading rusher by 91 yards. Lyon finished the game with 223 yards on the ground, averaging 5.0-yards per rush. The Scots added 148 yards through the air, finishing the first game with 371 total yards. Lyon allowed 415 yards by the Bluejays.
Tabor came back two possessions later to light up the scoreboard with a 42-yard field goal by Jared Slavens. The Bluejays achieved great field position after pinning the Scots deep in their own territory. Tabor only had to move 11 yards for the kick.
"We held them to a field goal right there and that was huge," Kelley said. "Our defense was really making some great hits out there today. Early on we had them off-balance."
Trailing 7-3 to the first-year program after the first period ended, Tabor grabbed its first lead, 10-7, with a seven-play, 61-yard drive that took just 2:07. Ben Bebermeyer broke the plane of the endzone with a one-yard run with 14:33 on the clock.
But the Scots were far from finished. Trenston Hawkins (FR/Houston, Texas) broke up a fourth-down pass by Simon McKee (8-of-12, 90 yards), and Lyon took the momentum and quickly moved 62 yards for the touchdown. Bowles once again did the honors, scoring from one-yard out. He set up the score by sprinting to the Tabor one-yard line on a 70-yard jaunt. Espericueta added the PAT, and with 8:27 left in the half, Lyon had the momentum back and led 14-10.
"It was a great first half, and it would have been great if we could have come out in the second half and continued to play like that," Kelley said. "But you've got to give Tabor credit. That's why they're ranked 22nd in the country. They know how to win, and we have to make this a learning experienced."
Joseph Donnell led the Bluejays' ground attack with 140 yards, and D'Marco Smith added 100 more. The pair combined for four touchdowns in the second half to help Tabor pull away. Trailing after 30 minutes, the Bluejays outscored Lyon 28-0 in the key third quarter as they obtained the momentum and kept it.
After Tabor scored 35 straight points, the Scots showed they still had some fight left. Dwane Robinson (FR/Palm Bay, Fla.), who found himself scrambling a number of times, showed his strong arm when he found Nick Hinkley (FR/Allen, Texas) behind the Tabor defense for a 79-yard touchdown pass with 10:53 remaining. Robinson finished the game completing 5-of-8 throws for 118 yards and the score.
Three Lyon players recorded two catches each. Bowles hauled in two for 33, Robinson, who also plays receiver, caught a pair for 23 yards, and Jansen Acklin (FR/Mountain View, Mo.) was on the receiving end of a pair of throws.
On the defensive side, Carr Hill (FR/Cherokee Village, Ark.) led the Scots with nine tackles, while Jason Ellis (FR/Katy, Texas), Sawyer Knick (FR/Becker, Minn.) and Xavier Story (FR/Bushnell, Fla.) each totaled eight. Stephen Benedik (FR/Panama City, Fla.) and Sage Wood (FR/West Plains, Mo.) came through with six tackles.
Both teams lost a pair of fumbles, and there were no interceptions in the contest.
Lyon (0-1) will have its hands full once again next week when the Scots host 7th-ranked and idle Lindsey Wilson College (0-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m. Tabor (1-0) will be at home to host Northwestern (Iowa) Saturday at 7 p.m.