It has been a very interesting season for the Bethel Royals in 2016. The campaign kicked off with a 70-57 offensive showcase and ended with a 17-14 defensive struggle, won when Blake Hottle kicked a 31-yard field goal with 42-seconds left in the game to down Hamline University. Cale Ferrin led the Royals defense with 2-interceptions. The win gave the Royals a 5-5 record, keeping alive Head Coach Steve Johnson’s streak of 23 straight seasons without a losing record. The Pipers dropped to 5-5, the best record the team has had in over 20 seasons.
The Bethel Royals got a big break when a fumble on the opening kickoff gave the Royals the ball at the Hamline 13. Three plays later Jake Marsh rushed for a one-yard score to make it 6-0.
The Pipers looked to respond right away, moving the ball from their own 18 down to the Royals 26. The drive saw QB Justice Spriggs convert two big third downs, one with his arm and one with his legs, until he was faced with a third and 6 at the Royals 26. After an incomplete pass, Head Coach Chip Taylor opted to go for it, but Spriggs was sacked and the ball was turned over on downs.
The Royals would take the ball and move back into Pipers territory, but senior Zach Schwalbach forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Decker at the Hamline 30. This was a great chance for the Pipers to take the lead, but Cale Ferrin would intercept a Spriggs pass at the Bethel 40.
That would see a string of three straight punts, until Hamline University would take the lead. Starting from their own 21, Spriggs led the drive with two huge completions to Naji El-Araby, one for 16-yards and the other for 11. A 22-yard completion to Josiah Harris on second and 10 moved the ball to the Royals 23. The Hamline QB then capped off the 10-play, 79-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Nick Kampa for the touchdown and Pipers led 7-6.
The Bethel University football team had gained just 86-yards through their first five drives of the half but, down by one with 2:29 left in the first half, they would retake the lead. Marsh got the drive rolling when he hit Drew Neuville for 22-yards to the Hamline 44. A swing pass to Gunnar Bloom on second and 3 at 37 saw Bloom race 28-yards to the Pipers nine. Marsh’s 8-yard pass to Bloom went for the score and the two-point conversion was good to make it 14-7.
It had been an impressive first half and was only going to get more exciting in the second. The Royals first possession of third quarter ended when the team turned the ball over on downs at the Pipers 29. Spriggs then moved the Pipers back into Bethel territory, but Ferrin made his second interception of the game at the 27 to end another rally.
The Royals then moved the ball to the Hamline three where they were faced with a fourth and goal. Coach Johnson opted to go for it, but Marsh’s pass fell incomplete and the Pipers had the ball again.
Ten drives into the second half, a team would finally get on the board. Hamline was forced to go for it on fourth and 2 from their own 13 with 3:09 left in the game, but the pass was incomplete. Five plays later Blake Hottle kicked a 31-yard field goal that made the score 17-7.
There was just 2:25 left in the game and Hamline was not done. Spriggs then led his team on an impressive 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended when the quarterback completed his second touchdown pass of the day to Kampa to make it 17-14.
There were 39-seconds left and the Pipers needed the ball back. They went for the onside kick, but Logan Lisle made the recovery to clinch the victory.
Cale Ferrin made 4-tackles on the day to go along with his 2-interceptions. Andrew Ragsdale led the Royals defense with 11-tackles and Dawson Brown added 10, including a sack. On offense, Bloom ran for 111-yards, and had 58-yards receiving and touchdown.
Spriggs finished 28-48 for 331-yards and 2-touchdown passes for Hamline. Harrison Jones made 4-receptions for 88-yards, and Nick Kampa caught 10-passes for 73-yards and 2-touchdowns. On defense the Pipers were led by Jonny Nguyen and Zach Schwalbach, each of whom made 16-tackles. Schwalbach also had a forced fumble.
By Robert Pannier