Levi Duininck is not a name you often hear about during a Bethel Royals football game and, truth be told, his name was only called five times on Saturday, but he made the most of those opportunities, scoring three touchdowns as the Royals downed the Fighting Pipers 54-14 to close out the season 5-5. Bethel finished 5-3 in the MIAC, their 24th straight season with a winning record in the conference, the longest such streak in the history of the conference.
Neither team was able to get on the board in the first quarter as the first four drives of the game ended in punts. On the third possession for Hamline, the Pipers went for a little trickery, handing the ball to Brendan Nachtrieb on the half-back option. His pass was picked off by Dawson Brown and returned to the Hamline 38.
On the first two plays of the drive for Bethel, quarterback Jake Marsh ran for 16 yards before completing a pass to Joel Koenecke for 19 yards. That put the ball at the Hamline two. Two plays later, Marsh kept the ball and scored from a yard out to make it 7-0.
The Royals would get the ball right back when Jacob Burgoon forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and recovered it, giving his team the ball at the Pipers 34. The offense turned to Sam Gibas, who carried the ball five times in the seven play drive, scoring from five yards out to put the Royals up 14-0.
Hamline responded to cut their deficit in half. Starting from their own 29, Justice Spriggs led the team on a 7 play, 71 yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. Two times the Hamline QB converted third downs to keep the drive alive, including tossing a 21 yard pass to Josiah Harris on third and 6, and earned a first down on third and 8 when he ran for six yards, but was hit late for the first down. On first and 10 at the 28, Spriggs connected with Harris for a touchdown to make it 14-7.
The Royals would score on their next possession to extend their lead back to 13. Twice Bethel was faced with a third down, and each time they converted. The first time was on a third and 2 when Gideon Erhabor ran for four yards and a first down. On third and goal at the 12 of Hamline, Marsh found Mathias Durie for the touchdown to make it 20-7. That would be the score at half.
Bethel University would extend their lead on the first possession of the second half. Two runs by Gibas gave the Royals 25 yards and a first down at the Hamline 35. Following an 11 yard run by Marsh, Gibas took the ball to the four on a 10 yard carry. On first and goal, Levi Duininck burst up the middle and scored to make it 26-7.
Hamline would respond with a touchdown. Spriggs completed four passes on the drive, all to Harris, including a 13 yard completion that went for their second touchdown of the game to make it 26-14. The Pipers would get no closer.
Back the other way Bethel went where they would extend their lead to 19. It would be Marsh and Gibas that moved the Royals to the six, where Duininck was given the ball again. He scored to make it 33-14.
On the next possession for Bethel, the Royals mounted an impressive 12 play, 80 yard drive that ended in a one yard touchdown run by Duininck, his third of the game.
On the next drive for Bethel, it would take just one play for them to reach the end zone. Starting from their own 37, the ball was handed to Riley McCann, who burst up the middle untouched, and outran two players on his way for the 63 yard touchdown to make it 47-14.
The Royals added one more score on an amazing 99 yard drive that took 13 plays and 6:32 off the clock. Joey Lee completed his Bethel career with a 20 yard touchdown pass to John Carlson to make it 54-14.
Sam Gibas gained 124 yards on 15 carries and scored a TD. Riley McCann needed just 8 carries to gain 108 yards and a score. Levi Duininck only carried the ball five times, gaining 16 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Justice Spriggs was 20 for 31 for Hamline for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. Josiah Harris had 8 receptions for 140 yards and 2 scores.
The Bethel Royals completed the season 5-5. The Hamline Pipers were 2-8.
By Robert Pannier