MIAC Conference Title on the Line as St. John’s Johnnies Welcome Bethel Royals
This Saturday the Bethel Royals will travel to Collegeville, MN to take on the St. John’s Johnnies in a game that will decide the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) title. The Royals enter 7-1, with a 6-0 conference record. The Johnnies are also 7-1 on the season with a 5-1 MIAC record. The winner of this game will be the conference winner and will enter the playoffs as the MIAC representative as long as the winner is victorious in their last game of the season.
This contest will pit two teams that have a great deal of talent, physicality and intelligence as well as two outstanding coaching staffs. In every facet of the game, both the Johnnies and Royals excel and this should make this one of the more entertaining contests of the season.
The Royals are led on offense by reigning MVP Erik Peterson, as well as their dynamic group of running backs, The Three Kings. Peterson struggled a bit last week in difficult weather conditions at Gustavus Adolpus, but he showed how dangerous he can be, completing two long-passes, one for a 58-yard touchdown, and the other that put the Royals deep in Gusties territory, where they would later score to take the lead.
The Three Kings rushed for over 200 combined yards and really took over in the second half. The three combined for 233 yards and three touchdowns against GAC, and for the season average over 180-yards and three touchdowns combined per game. They can hurt opponents in both the running and passing game, and they have a monster offensive line to run behind.
St. John’s is a different kind of team, as they have an outstanding running attack as well, but they primarily use one back, Sam Sura, to lead the way. Sura is leading the conference in rushing with 1350 yards, has an average of 168.8 yards per game, and a 6.6 yards per carry average. He also has scored 12 times on the ground. He is a beast to tackle and once he gets on a roll there may be no more difficult running back to bring down than Sura.
QB Nick Martin has not been asked to shoulder the load for the Johnnies. He has attempted just 72 passes in seven games, but he knows how to deliver when need be. At St. Thomas early in the season he made several outstanding plays to help pull out that victory, and so no one should think that the junior cannot win games with his arm. He has also shown incredible vision, throwing just one interception while adding seven touchdown passes.
This is a game that will match the two best secondaries in the conference and both will be tested. Lucas Glomb, Garrett Ackerman, Andrew Norri, Trevor Warner and Randy Perez have combined for 157 tackles, 11 interceptions, 15 pass breakups and a fumble recovery. They are a very quick and athletic group that plays very physical and steps up their game as opponents get closer to the Johnnies goal line.
The rest of the St. John’s defense has great skill as well. Carter Hanson is the leading tackler for St. John’s, and reads plays extremely well from the linebacker position. Reid Bjorklund combines with Hanson to form a dynamic 1-2 linebacker combo that makes plays and they can also attack the quarterback. The team is led on the defensive line by Matt Workman and Ben Rossini. Workman leads the conference with four sacks and also has 6.5 tackles for a loss.
The Royals defense has a set of outstanding defensive backs as well. Dan Leidall, David Morgan, Josh Treimer and Matt Mehlhorn are as dynamic a group as it gets. Each one of them are ball hawks and also can defend the run very well. The Fantastic Four have made 178 tackles, 29 pass breakups, six interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Treimer, aka Optimus Treim, has been especially difficult to throw against, picking off three passes and breaking up 13 others.
The defensive line is a tad small, but they are physical and force plays. Led by NG Will Van Duzer this is a group that takes on blockers head on, and behind them is an outstanding group of linebackers who move to the ball well and make plays. They are going to have their hands full with Sura, but have proven each week they are up to the task no matter who the opponent is.
On the sidelines will be two of the most successful and innovative coaching staffs in the country. Led by Gary Fasching at St. John’s and Steve Johnson at Bethel these are two staffs that create incredible game plans and make great adjustments as the game develops. Both teams have intelligent players and brilliant coaching staffs, so mental mistakes will be few if any.
There is nothing like a game that will name the conference champion. The Bethel Royals-St. John’s Johnnies game will be such a contest. Two teams with great defenses that also have outstanding running attacks will make for a fantastic contest. It is likely that the play of the quarterbacks will be the determining factor in this game. If Martin is forced to throw 20 times, this may be a long day for St. John’s. If Peterson struggles to make plays with his arm and his legs then the Royals will likely struggle.
By Robert Pannier