Stifling Defense Leads Wartburg Knights to 24-14 Victory Over Bethel University
This was the matchup that the Bethel University Royals has been looking forward to all summer long. The grudge match against national powerhouse Wartburg College was the chance for the Royals to seek revenge for last season’s 34-14 loss at Wartburg College. Unfortunately for Bethel, the Knights brought the same stifling defense with them, and despite the Royals defense playing an exceptional contest, the team fell 24-14.
The Wartburg Knights set the tone on their very first series. The visitors started from their own 37-yard-line, and moved 63-yards in 6-plays, before Brandon Domeyer burst through the line and raced 34-yards for a touchdown. Domeyer was a beast on the drive, carrying the drive four total carries for 50 yards and the score.
Meanwhile the Wartburg defense was allowing the Royals offense a first down or two on each drive, but forcing them to punt in each case. The first four times that Bethel had the ball they were forced to punt on each occasion, despite recovering a fumble on a muffed punt return and intercepting a pass deep in Wartburg territory.
The fifth possession followed the interception, giving Bethel the ball at the Knights 17. The Royals were able to move the ball to the four-yard-line but, on fourth and goal, Andrew Dzurik’s pass fell incomplete and Wartburg College took over on downs.
The Royals defense stiffened themselves and forced the Knights to punt after just three plays. That gave them the ball at the Wartburg 42, and from there it took just three plays for them to tie the score. Dzurik kept the ball on the series’ first play and rushed 14-yards for a first down. Dzurik then passed to Drew Neuville for nine yards, setting up a second and 1 at the Knights 19. Marshall Klitzke was then handed the ball, and he bowled over two defenders before outracing everyone to the end zone to tie the game.
The Wartburg Knights responded right away, thanks to the play of QB Logan Schrader. He led his team on a nine-play, 81-yard drive where he was involved in every play but two. The junior was 3-6 on the drive for 68 yards, and rushed for six additional yards. His 21-yard completion to Robbie Anstoetter put the ball at the Bethel one-yard line, and from there Jake Haberman burst into the end zone to give the Knights back to lead.
It would be 14-7 heading into the locker room, but the Royals had the ball first to start out the second half, and they took full advantage. This time it was the Royals quarterback’s turn to lead his team on a big drive. Dzurik completed 3-4 pass attempts on the drive for 62 yards. That included an 18-yard pass completion to Bryce Marquardt and a 27-yarder to Neuville that put the ball at the Wartburg 12. There it looked like the drive was going to stall as the Royals could only muster three yards on the first three plays, setting up a fourth and 7. Coach Steve Johnson rolled the dice and decided to go for it, and Dzurik came through, hitting Marquardt on a swing pass near the sideline. Marquardt made a brilliant catch, keeping one foot in bounds before hitting the end zone cone for the score. That tied the game at 14.
A 31-yard field goal by Michael Bohlke put the Knights back on top with 4:38 left in the third quarter. That is where the game would stay for the next 19 minutes. Each team had their opportunities to move the ball, but were not able to overcome either squad’s defense.
With 7:11 left in the game, Schrader got the ball with a chance to close it out and that is what he did. Schrader and Domeyer carried the ball the first two plays of the drive and accumulated a total of 16-yards. On second and 9, the Wartburg QB found Robbie Anstoetter for 31-yards to the Bethel 29. Following a false start penalty, Schrader was dropped nine-yards behind the line of scrimmage and it looked like the Royals defense may hold again, but completions to Riley Brockway for 13-yards and Anstoetter for 11 more gave the Knights a first down. Two plays later Domeyer sealed it when he burst left and scored from 16-yards out. That gave the final score of 24-14.
The Wartburg College defense held Bethel University to 275 yards of total offense. That included just 140 through the air. Klitzke gained 105 yards on the ground on 20 carries with the touchdown. Marquardt had 6 catches for 71 yards and a score.
Schrader was 14-30 for 214 yards passing and he gained 22 more on the ground. Domeyer had 13 carries for 83 yards and a score, and Anstoetter had 6 catches for 124 yards receiving. Both Rob Rottler and Gunner Tranel had 11 tackles for the Wartburg defense. Rottler forced a fumble, and Nick Clasen had two sacks.
Dan Leidall had three pass breakups and 8 tackles to lead the Royals defense.
By Robert Pannier