Last season, the Bethel Royals traveled to the University of Dubuque to take on the Spartans to open the campaign, and helped produce one of the wildest games in school history. Both teams put up over 700-yards of offense as the Spartans prevailed 70-53. Head Coach Steve Johnson wanted his team to play a lot more physical and they did, dominating the game for three quarters, but quarterback Conor Feckley led a huge comeback and Dubuque prevailed 32-26.
Turnovers were the big story in the first half, as Bethel gave up four of them. The first came after the Bethel defense forced the Spartans to punt on their opening drive of the game. On the first play, Brady Bomsta fumbled and Dubuque recovered at the Royals 25. Three plays later, Conor Feckley found Sam Morton for the 24-yard touchdown and it was 7-0.
On the Royals third possession they would get on the board. Beginning at their own 48, on the second play of the drive, Jake Marsh found Drew Larsen for 27-yards down to the Dubuque 25. Three plays later, it was Marsh again, this time hitting Bryce Marquardt for 22-yards and the score to make it 7-6.
The Spartans responded right away. They began their next drive at their own 30 and quickly moved across midfield when Feckley found Emanuel Jenkins for 29-yards to the Bethel 41. The drive looked like it would stall when a false start penalty made it third and 14, but the Spartans QB came up big again, hitting Jenkins for 27-yards and a first down. Three plays later, Feckley went up top to Kody Reimer for 21-yards, finishing the drive with a touchdown to make it 13-6.
The lead would become nine when the Dubuque defense came up with a big play. On third and seven, Marsh lost the handle on the ball and was sacked in the end zone for a safety. That made it 15-6.
The Spartans were in great shape and looked like they would have excellent field position, but Blake Hottle boomed an 80-yard free kick. On the ensuing drive, Dawson Brown made a huge play, picking off a Feckley pass at the 47. From there, the Royals moved the distance in 6-plays before Levi Duininck scored from 2-yards out to make it 15-13.
On the Bethel Royals next possession, they would take the lead. Beginning from their own 31, it looked like the drive would go nowhere when the Royals were third and 6, but Marsh made a great pass to Marquardt who raced the distance for the 65-yard score to make it 20-15 Bethel.
It was an amazing turnaround, considering that the Royals had turned the ball over four times in the first half. To head to the locker room ahead by five was proof of how resilient this Royals team can be.
In the third quarter, Bethel extended their lead to eight. They would begin their second possession of the half from their own 10. They moved 81-yards in 12-plays, but the drive stalled when Marsh was stopped at the four on third and 9. Hottle kicked a 26-field goal to make it 23-15.
It would stay that way into the fourth, when the Spartans tied the score. Three seconds into the final quarter, Dubuque got the ball at their own 14. Feckley completed four of seven passes, including a 38-yard strike to Riemer for the score. He then ran in to convert the two-point conversion to tie the score at 23.
That sent the game to overtime, where each team would kick a field goal on their first possessions. On the Spartans second drive, Dwayne Allen, Jr. carried the ball three times, including scoring from 4-yards out to make it 32-26.
That gave Bethel one more chance to at least tie the score. A penalty and a rush for a loss of five set up second and 20. Two incomplete passes brought up fourth down, and with one last chance, Marsh’s pass to Marquardt fell incomplete to end the game.
Conor Feckley threw for 337-yards and 2-TDs on 29-65 passing. Dwayne Allen, Jr. rushed for 69-yards and a TD. Emanuel Jenkins had a huge day receiving, making 13-receptions for 161-yards. Kody Riemer had 80-yards receiving and 2-touchdowns. Derek Trotter led the Dubuque defense with 12-tackles, and Derek Schambow had 2-fumble recoveries.
The Bethel Royals were led by Bryce Marquardt, who had 144-yards receiving and 2-TDs. Riley McCann rushed for 102-years and Jake Marsh threw for 298-yards and 2-scores. Cale Ferrin had 19-tackles for the Royals.
The Bethel Royals (0-1) Travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin to take on Carthage College next Saturday. Kickoff is at noon.
By Robert Pannier