The King is back. No Elvis has not been spotted at a super market for the 10,000th time, nor has any other celebrity miraculously risen from the grave to re-grace the world with their presence. This King is Bethel Royals quarterback Erik Peterson, who ascended back to his proper place in the MIAC football realm on Saturday, as he led an aerial assault on Chicago University that reminded everyone that he is one of the elite QBs of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
Peterson was last season’s choice as the top player in the conference, but with arguably the best set of running backs in the MIAC this season, less has been asked of him as Bethel Coach Steve Johnson has turned to his talented Three Kings backfield to carry the lion’s share of the offense. However, on this day it was time to return to his reigning King to guide the offense, and Peterson delivered.
The Royals had 12 possessions on the day, and scored seven touchdowns. The Bethel QB had five touchdown passes of his own, and also threw for 320 yards and had an outstanding 19-23 day. This was quite an accomplishment considering that Chicago entered the game undefeated, and had the third best defense in Division-III college football, yielding just 190 yards per game with an 8.8 average points per game allowed. The Royals had eclipsed that number before one minute had elapsed in the second quarter.
After the Maroons kicked a field goal on the first series of the game, Peterson went to work. He led the Royals on a nine-play, 76-yard drive that culminated with a five-yard touchdown pass to Bridgeport Tusler to make the score 7-3. The Bethel QB completed all three of his passes on the drive to Tusler, the first of which was a 39-yard pass play that moved the ball to the Chicago 37. From there the Royals turned to their ground game on six of the next seven plays before the touchdown pass.
On Bethel’s second possession, Peterson completed his first two passes before Brandon Marquardt and Marshall Klitzke combined to carry the ball three times to the Chicago 49. On a first and ten play Peterson found a wide open Charles Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown and it was clear the King was back.
A turnover would give the ball to the Maroons at the Bethel 48-yard line on the next Royals drive, but the defense shut down the Chicago offense, forcing a punt. After yielding the early field goal, the defense stymied the Maroons offense, allowing just 47 yards on the next three series, and holding them to three-n-outs on two of the three possessions.
Chicago would finally mount a drive that resulted in a touchdown to cut the Bethel lead to 14-10, but the Royals offense immediately responded. After Marquardt returned the kickoff 38-yards to his own 47-yard line, Peterson led the team on a seven-play, 53-yard drive that ended with the QB hitting Brandon’s brother Bryce for a 12-yard score and a 21-10 lead. Peterson completed all four passes on the drive for 30 yards, and he finished the first half completing all 10 of his pass attempts.
The second-half began with the QB missing his first pass attempt of the game, but he then completed the next three for 44 yards as he led the team to the Chicago 16. From there Tusler took the hand-off and he would make some great moves on his way into the end zone for his second score of the game.
On their next drive, the Royals would hit pay dirt again as Peterson’s 46-yard strike to Bryce Marquardt gave the wide out his second touchdown reception of the game. It was Peterson’s fourth touchdown pass of the game, but he still had one more in him.
The Maroons added a touchdown to start the fourth quarter when Ryan Patrick hit Sam Coleman for a 30-yard scoring pass, but the Royals responded immediately with a five-play, 45-yard drive capped off by Klitzke’s two-yard touchdown run. This was one of the prevalent themes of the game. Chicago had four scoring drives on the day, but every time Bethel responded with a touchdown on their very next possession.
A 43-yard touchdown pass to Colin Macrl gave the Maroons their third touchdown of the day, but once again Peterson led a quick response. An attempted onside kick was recovered by Brandon Marquardt who returned the ball 40-yards to the Chicago 12-yard line. Four plays later Peterson found Drew Neuville for a nine-yard touchdown reception and the seventh offensive touchdown of the day for Bethel.
The Royals would score one more time on Chicago’s next offensive possession. Daniel Leidall forced a Maroons fumble at the eight, which was recovered by Jesse Moeckly and returned for a touchdown. That closed the scoring at 52-21.
While Peterson was having a huge day in the air, he proved to be very generous in the dispersion of his passes, with seven different receivers making catches on the day. Neuville led the team with 87 yards receiving on five receptions, and Tusler had six catches for 79 yards. Bryce Marquardt had two TD receptions and 71 yards receiving.
On defense the Royals had three players who had double-digits in tackles, led by Landon Mathis and Matt Mehlhorn with 11 each. Josh Dalki added 10 more.
With the victory in hand, Bethel now moves onto a grueling three weeks in their schedule, beginning with them welcoming St. Thomas to Arden Hills next Saturday. From there they travel to St. Peter to face Gustavus Adolphus on November 1, before going to Collegeville to face St. John’s on the 8th.
By Robert Pannier