Derek Tabor a force on both sides of the ball for Killdeer Cowboys

Derek Tabor doesn't go down that easily. Maybe it's because the senior linebacker and running back on the Killdeer football team competes in two other sports, wrestling and track, that happen to build strength and acceleration. Or maybe it's beca...

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Killdeer senior running back Derek Tabor, middle, eludes the tackle of Velva-Sawyer sophomore linebacker Jon Thomas last Saturday during the Cowboys’ 33-0 victory at the Killdeer Athletic Complex. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

Derek Tabor doesn’t go down that easily.
Maybe it’s because the senior linebacker and running back on the Killdeer football team competes in two other sports, wrestling and track, that happen to build strength and acceleration.
Or maybe it’s because, after an evening of taking hits and dishing them out, Tabor has been known to do small workouts when he gets home from football games.
“I just get pumped up after games, I guess,” Tabor said.
Such is the work ethic Tabor has exhibited the past few years, making him a key component in the Cowboys’ repeat trip to the Class 1A state championship game, which starts at 11 a.m. Friday at the Fargodome.
“He’s a very strong and very athletic kid. He's really worked his tail off,” Cowboys head coach Lou Dobitz said. “He’s worked very hard to get to where he is. His dad told us a few days ago, ‘It’s almost crazy, but sometimes after football games he comes home and does pushups.’”
The Cowboys (9-1) will face Region 2 champion Park River-Fordville-Lankin for the second consecutive year. The Aggies got the best of Killdeer last season 26-18, but to become back-to-back champions, they’ll have to slow down Tabor and a host of other Killdeer playmakers.
On offense, Tabor has rushed for 1,273 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and he’s averaged 127 yards per outing.
“He can take a hit and deliver a hit, but he’s quick enough to avoid them,” Dobitz said. “He can hit two or three guys and carry them along with him. He’s been doing that all year long.”
In the Cowboys’ 3-4 defensive scheme, Tabor plays outside linebacker and is fourth on the team in tackles with 60, and he’s tied with junior inside linebacker Dillan Jepson with five sacks. He’s also second to Jepson in tackles for a loss, with eight.
“He’s a hard-nosed guy. He loves to compete, and he’s always up for a challenge,” Jepson said. “He likes taking a hit and going up against the biggest guys.”
On offense or on defense?
“Both,” Jepson said.

Tabor said he embraces the physicality of his positions.
“That’s the fun of the game,” he said. “That’s what football’s about.”
Tabor undoubtedly takes a beating on both sides of the ball, but he’s vital to the team’s success, making it difficult for him to come off the field.
“I’ve been doing it all year long. I don’t come off the field much, and I’m not going to complain about that,” he said. “The coaches trust me and the players trust me, and that’s a good feeling.”
For as productive as Tabor is on offense, Dobitz said he’s an important aspect of a defense that has shut out both of its opponents in the playoffs this year.
“He controls his side of the line,” Dobitz said. “He says, ‘I own this side of the field. I don’t want anybody on this side of the field.’”
Dobitz said Tabor has played some cornerback and wide receiver in the past, but his commitment to improving his versatility has helped him to excel at outside linebacker, making the Cowboys even more of a threat for Park River-Fordville-Lankin on Friday.
Should the Cowboys prevail, don’t mind the young man in pads doing pushups on Gate City Bank Field.
Derek Tabor is just pumped up.

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