Gustavus Adolphus Gusties and Bethel Royals Face-Off for Conference Lead
On Saturday the Bethel Royals will travel south to St. Peter, MN to face the Gustavus Adolphus Gusties with a great many title and playoff implications on the line. Both teams enter the game 6-1, with Bethel leading the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) at a perfect 5-0, while the Gusties boast a 4-1 MIAC record. A win for GAC would place them in a first place tie for the conference lead, while a loss would almost certainly dash any hopes they have of not only winning the conference, but even qualifying for the playoffs.
This game will be one fans of football should really enjoy as it pits the conference’s No. 1 offense verses the No. 1 defense. Gustavus Adolphus has been lighting up the scoreboard this season with a pass attack that is tops in all of Division-III football. Behind quarterback Mitch Hendricks the Gusties have been putting up video game numbers so far this season, and have made it so teams have to keep scoring on virtually every possession they have if they are going to keep up with this dynamic offense.
Hendricks is having an absolutely phenomenal season so far. In his seven games he has already thrown for 2605 yards, 29 touchdowns and has a 74.1 completion percentage. His favorite targets have been brothers Matt and Gabriel Boyce, who are also putting up big numbers this season. The two are 1-2 in the conference in yardage and Matt leads the MIAC with 13 touchdown receptions. They are a dynamic grouping that are a nightmare for any offensive coordinator.
The job of stopping this group will fall on the Bethel Royals defense, ranked No. 1 in the conference in yards allowed per game. They have an outstanding group at each level of the defense, but the group that will play the biggest role in this game will be their dynamic corps of defensive backs, David Morgan, Josh Treimer, Dan Leidall and Matt Mehlhorn. These four are arguably the most dynamic group of DBs in the conference, and can make plays from anywhere on the field. They all are excellent cover guys, who can stuff the run and pick-off passes. This will be one of the key match-ups of the game.
It will not be the only match-up to watch however. Bethel has a great defense, but they have an equally formidable offense, led by reigning conference MVP Erik Peterson. Peterson is following up his outstanding 2013 campaign with another dominant year at the quarterback position for the Bethel Royals. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions, while adding for 1460 yards passing.
While Peterson is having an outstanding season, he has the benefit of the most dynamic group of running backs in the conference. Brandon Marquardt, Marshall Klitzke and Bridgeport Tusler give Peterson three outstanding backs to hand the ball off to, as well as to pass to out of the backfield. The three average over 170 yards rushing and three touchdowns combined per game, and the Gusties defense will have their hands full with this group.
While the offense is getting all the hype for the Gusties, the defense for Gustavus Adolphus is pretty good themselves. They are ranked fourth in the conference in total yards allowed and total points allowed, but they are first in sacks and second in turnovers. They have the skill to make some key plays when needed, and if they can force two turnovers that Hendricks can turn into points, watch out!
Zach Martinez is the leading tackler on the team, and safety Xavier Fust knows how to read plays and keep himself involved. He is second on the team in tackles, tied for first in interceptions and can play cover well. Jake Forcier is their other safety and he is equally as lethal as Fust. It should be an interesting comparison at the end of the game to see how they match-up statistically to Morgan and Leidall.
Last week’s game between Bethel and St. Thomas started out as a blow out before the Tommies battled back to make it one of the most exciting games of the year. This game looks on paper like it could be just as entertaining. An incredible offense (Gustavus Adolphus Gusties) putting up unbelievable numbers versus a stymying defense (Bethel Royals) that is exceptional in all facets of the game. It is the kind of game fans love to see. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out like the last match-up like this that fans were so eagerly anticipating – Seattle’s Super Bowl win over Denver.
By Robert Pannier