Royals Defense Reigns in Decisive Victory over North Park
The Bethel University Royals Defense picked up where they left off in 2019, leading the team to a decisive 59-7 victory over North Park University on Saturday. The defense held the Vikings to just 11 first downs and 229 yards of total offense. That gave the Bethel offense plenty of opportunities, and quarterback Jaran Roste took full advantage, throwing for 169 yards and three touchdowns and adding 48 more on the ground.
This was a contest where the Royals were in complete control from the start, taking a 21-7 lead coming out of the first quarter. After neither team was able to score on their first possession, Bethel was able to get in the end zone on their second drive when they started at the North Park 37. Roste found Micah Niewald with a 16-yard completion on the second play of the drive, and then set up a first and goal after rushing for 10 yards down to the 4 yard line. Two plays later, Sid Boros busted up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Royals a 7-0 lead.
On the next position for the Vikings, Matt Feldick picked off a Matt Eck pass at the 41, turning the interception into a touchdown to give Bethel a 14-0 lead.
It was looking like North Park was going to get blown out, but the Vikings responded, moving 73 yards in four plays to cut the deficit in half. The big play of the drive came on fourth and 1 when the coaching staff opted to go for it despite being at their own 38-yard line. A.J. Harris rewarded them, bursting outside and racing 62 yards for a touchdown to make it a 14-7 game.
From there, it was all Bethel. The Royals responded with 45 unanswered points, starting with their very next drive. Thomas Wurdermann returned the kickoff 22 yards to the Bethel 41. From there, Roste found Joey Kidder for 37 yards. Three plays later, Roste connected with Niewald once again, this time for a 14-yard touchdown strike that extended the lead back to 14.
On their next possession, the Royals found the end zone once again. The Vikings defense looked like they were going to hold Bethel when they forced a third and 8 at the 28, but Roste kept the ball, racing 27 yards before being tackled. On the next play, he completed a 15-yard strike to Gabe Ante, but found himself in a little bit of trouble after being sacked for 15 yards on the next play. A personal file moved the ball back an additional 13 yards, setting up second and 38. However, the team got a break when a personal foul gave Bethel a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, the junior quarterback went up top to Kidder for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Just before the half, Bethel added a touchdown on their fourth straight possession. Going 85 yards in 10 plays, a 13-yard completion to Kidder and a 15-yard personal foul against North Park moved the ball to the Bethel 42. After Bryce Kunkle raced at 21 yards for another first down, the team methodically moved down the field. On second and seven at the 13, Boros found another seam, racing the distance for his second touchdown of the game. That made it 35-7, which would be the score heading into the half.
North Park received the opening kickoff of the second half and looked like they would get on the board when they moved to the Bethel 1 yard line, where they faced a third and goal. The play went to Harris, but Reese Pantila stripped of the ball just shy of the goal line. Nate Farm scooped it up and raced 99 yards for a touchdown, crushing the North Park Vikings.
The Royals offense continued to thrive, scoring for the fifth straight time on their next possession. This time it was Roste finding Boros for 15 yards to complete the 11 plays, 80-yard drive.
Bethel added one more touchdown, scoring on their sixth straight possession. Aaron Ellingson completed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. That made it 56-7. The Royals added a field goal on their final possession of the contest, putting points on the board in seven straight possessions. Jack Hansen hit a 46-yard field goal attempt. Hansen also hit all eight point after attempts in the game, giving him 11 points on the day.
While the offense was having its way with the Vikings, the Bethel defense was dominating. North Park had the ball 11 times in the game, punting on seven of those possessions. The defense also forced two turnovers. North Park produced 121 yards on the ground and only 108 yards through the air. They were 2 of 12 on third down conversions and had the ball for just 27:33. Feldick and Dane Schumacher led the Royals defense was six tackles each. The team did not record a sack.
The offense had a spectacular day. Roste completed 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns. He also carried the ball seven times for 48 yards. Kunkle had 13 carries for 80 yards. Boros had nine carries for 40 yards and two touchdowns as the Royals put up 264 yards on the ground. Kidder led the receivers with five catches for 84 yards and a TD.
The Bethel University Royals (1-0) will welcome the University of Wisconsin-Platteville next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00.
by Robert Pannier