Last season the Bethel Royals rolled through the regular season, winning all 11 games on their way to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Championship. That included a 31-24 victory over the Wartburg Knights in the second round of last year’s Division-III playoffs, which knocked the Knights from the post-season. Clearly Wartburg wanted a little revenge, and QB Logan Schrader made sure he did just that as he dissected the Royals defense for 388 yards passing in a 31-14 win.
The day started out well enough for the Royals. They actually entered the second half leading 7-3, after both defenses delivered big plays in the first half. The Knights were dominating the game offensively, making three trips to the red zone, but only came away with a field goal. That was due in large part to missed opportunities and turnovers by the offense.
The Knights got on the board first, courteously of their special teams. On fourth and one from the Bethel 49, Philip Peterson’s punt was blocked and Zach Twedt recovered the ball on the Royals 35. From there Wartburg moved to the 16, which is where the drive stalled. Michael Bohlke hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Knights the lead.
Leading 3-0 in the second quarter kicker Bohlke missed a 29-yard field goal following an impressive 6-play, 53-yard drive. In their next possession, Wartburg drove to the Bethel 34, but Schrader was picked off by Steven Plocker at the Royals 35. He returned the ball 43 yards to the Wartburg 22. From there it looked like the Royals would be settling for a field goal attempt themselves, but on fourth and 12 from the 30, Bethel decided to go for it. QB Erik Peterson made a great pass to a wide open Brandon Marquardt who scored on the play and gave the Royals the 7-3 lead.
The game remained 7-3 through the first half with the Bethel defense making plays and controlling the line of scrimmage. The Knights began the second half with the ball, and Schrader looked hot to start, completing a 16 yard pass, and rushing twice for 12 yards, but on his second carry he fumbled giving the Royals great field position at the Wartburg 45.
On Bethel’s first drive of the half they had a chance to move up 14-3. Peterson had his receiver wide open down the field for a sure touchdown, but he could not grab the pass cleanly, and the ball fell incomplete. Bethel then went for it on fourth down, but failed to make the one yard they needed to move the chains, and the ball was back in the Knights hands.
The Royals held Wartburg on their next possession, but then the Knights would go 61 yards in six plays for the score. Schrader completed two huge passes of 29 and 13 yards on the drive and then on first and goal from the eight he ran it in for the touchdown.
Bethel’s offense was stopped on their next possession, and Wartburg quickly put together a drive to add another score. It took just six plays to move 77 yards, using just 1:51 on the clock to get the score. Schrader was three of four on the drive, completing two huge pass plays of 34 and 35 yards. His third completion moved the ball to the six yard line where he ran it in for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.
It was clear by this point that the Royals defense was just wearing down. Bethel’s offense generated just 32 yards of offense in the third quarter, and had just 10 total plays. Meanwhile Wartburg scored on their last two times they had the ball in the third quarter, and scored on their first two possessions of the fourth. Schrader was incredibly hot by this point, and the Royals had no answer on how to stop him.
Bethel finally did get on the board in the fourth, when they scored their own touchdown between the Knights two fourth quarter scores. Peterson led the drive completing five of seven passes for 71 yards, including a 22-yarder to Bryan Marquardt for the score.
Clearly it was too little too late by that point. Despite the Royals defense picking off two passes and forcing two fumbles, they were unable to stop the Knights offense for the most part, especially Schrader. The Wartburg quarterback was 22-34 for 388 yards and a TD. Peterson competed 18 of 36 passes for 175 yards and 2 TDs. For the Knights, Taylor Jacobsme was Schrader’s favorite target, making 11 catches for 160 yards and a TD.
Bethel will face a big challenge next week when St. Olaf comes to Arden Hills for the Royals home opener.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Writer Covering the MIAC