Fantastic Four Lead Bethel Royals Secondary into Aerial War
Saturday the Bethel Royals will roll into St. Peter to face the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties. This will be a game that will match the top rated passing attack in Division-III football against the No. 1 defense in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The game is going to be a test of how good that defense is, and a lot of the pressure will fall on four guys, defensive backs Matt Mehlhorn, Dan Leidall, David Morgan and Josh Treimer.
While some consider the secondary of the St. John’s Johnnies to be the elite group in the MIAC, there is no doubt to this writer that this group is equally as good, if not better. It is not that St. John’s doesn’t have an elite group of corners and safeties, because they do. It is simply that this is the most active and dynamic group in the conference. Combined the group has made 153 tackles, forced two fumbles, recovered two others, intercepted five passes and broken up 21 more. Those are outstanding numbers that demonstrate how these four men find ways to read plays perfectly and make plays to help their team win. They are a group that their Coach, Steve Johnson, calls one of the best he has coached in his 26 years at the school.
The Bethel Royals Fantastic Four are outstanding for many reasons, but it begins in one place – the mutual respect and trust they have for each other. A lot of the focus of the Royals defense is built around the idea that each man must trust the other ten to do their job and to be where they need to be. “You have to be disciplined to play the defensive scheme,” Treimer explains. “You don’t create plays here because then you get out of position.”
Mehlhorn agrees. “There may be some games when you don’t really make any plays at all, but you have to have confidence that the other guys are doing their jobs, and not go chasing after plays so that you create holes in the defense.”
These four demonstrate that level of trust perfectly, and it is because there is a great deal of confidence and respect amongst the group. “Each of us have a lot of confidence in each other,” Mehlhorn adds. “There isn’t another group in the country we would rather play with.”
Along with the trust they have in each other, this a group of very intelligent young men. They know how to read plays and make adjustments that get them into position to make plays. They get what the coaches are teaching, so much so that the Royals coaching staff decided to make a fairly dramatic change in the defensive scheme this season, moving Leidall down closer to the line of scrimmage, thus putting more pressure on the other three to be able to cover more of the field. The four not only delivered, they embraced the challenge. The results are in the stats as the team has allowed just six additional yards of passing per game on average.
This weekend the group faces their biggest challenge, squaring off against Gusties QB Mitch Hendricks and his high-flying group of receivers. The Fantastic Four is not only ready to take on the challenge, they are looking forward to it. “This is an exciting challenge for us to face an offense we haven’t seen this season, Leidall adds. “We face a lot of running teams and this is a different kind of team we get to go out and show what we are capable of against.”
Adds Morgan, “I am really excited about this challenge. This is not only a test to show how good we are, but how good the entire team is. This is going to show people how good we really are.”
Treimer concurs completely. “As competitive as the four of us are, we highly anticipate the challenge and are looking forward to it. We are not psyching ourselves out in any way, and not getting too pumped up about it. We know we need to stay true to our foundation and make the plays we have the chance to make.”
Trust, brilliance and competitiveness. These are three of the dominant traits of the Fantastic Four as a group, but there is one more that they all possess. This is an incredibly athletic group that is not afraid to get physical. This is none more true than in relation to safety Dan Leidall. All three describe the safety as the toughest guy on the field, who will lower his head to take on any opponent. All love that challenge however, and have the size and speed to match-up against any receiver, chase down any running back and battle with any lineman to reach their target.
While all four have characteristics that are universal to the group, they are still four uniquely composed men. Treimer is the intense one of the group, who is generally quiet, but it is clear that under that composure is a fiercely driven competitor who wants to outduel his opponent at every opportunity. “He is the kind of guy who bounces right back if he is beaten and makes a key play to turn things around,” Leidall explains. Morgan includes that he adds “a lot of toughness to the defense,” and all three agree that he is a natural leader, and a welcoming guy that makes all feel comfortable to approach the senior. “He is just a genuine guy who really cares about people,” tells Mehlhorn.
Leidall is a guy who always has a smile on his face when he is away from the field, but once he has a uniform on he is all business. He loves the physicality of the game, and is most happy when he is hitting someone. Mehlhorn shares a story from last season where the safety showed his determination to make a play. “We are on return coverage, and he tells me before the kick that he is going to run down and blow the play up, which he does. He knocks the guy’s helmet off, but in the process he concusses himself. That is our Danny.”
Off the field he is a very different guy, who his three teammates referred to as “goofy.” Treimer points out how “he gets me to do goofy things I wouldn’t normally do. He has the kind of personality that everyone loves to be around.”
While all four are very intelligent, Mehlhorn is the intellectual one of the group. “Very cerebral guy by nature,” tells Treimer. “He really understands what other offenses are trying to do in different situations and he is the guy that really gets what the coaches are trying to do. He will do whatever it takes to help the team.
Morgan describes the cornerback as a guy who “brings a spark to the team. He just has incredible raw talent.”
With Treimer being the intense one, Mehlhorn being the cerebral one, and Leidall being the tough one, that leaves the comical one to Morgan, and he greatly embraces the role. His wit is not forced in anyway, and he finds the perfect times to insert his brand of comic genius into the discussion. “He has a way of lightening the mood in the huddle,” according to Leidall. “Something could have just happened on the field that might have us shaking our heads, but Davey will come in with some comment and get us all laughing, so we get refocused.”
While the senior safety may be a comic artist, he is also a dominant hitter who makes plays. Treimer lauds his fellow defensive back. “He has great instincts. He is a playmaker who makes plays when we really need someone to step up.”
Mehlhorn concurs. “He always has a comment to lighten the mood, but he is as fearless as they come. Last year against Concordia he had a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice all week, but we had another injury and needed him to play. He played the entire game with one arm, and was in their throwing his body around. The guy is just fearless.”
This is what makes this group so good. They play as one, and all bring a little something different to the table that helps the others to be that much better. Whether it is Treimer’s leadership, Leidall’s toughness, Mehlhorn’s thoughtfulness or Morgan’s play-making ability, this group has the skill and the football IQ to play a physical running team or a finesse passing one, and they will do it with brilliance and a oneness that makes them hard to beat.
Gusties quarterback Mitch Hendricks may be having the season of his life, but when he takes the field against the Bethel Royals on Saturday he is going to be facing the teeth of the BU defense. He will be trying to throw against the Royals Fantastic Four and there is no doubt that he will have to work for every yard he gets. No, they may not be super heroes, and all four are too modest to even admit that individually they are anything special on their own, but the truth of the matter is that these four young men are each individually fantastic. It’s just that when they come together they become exponentially so. Something like Fantastic to the fourth power.
By Robert Pannier.