Bethel crushes St. Scholastica in Division III playoffs

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2013 - 7:50 AM

The Royals routed St. Scholastica, through the air and on the turf, in a first-round NCAA Division III playoff game.

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Playing under a Teflon sky did wonders for Bethel’s offense on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

The Royals took St. Scholastica’s defense apart by land and by air as they breezed to a 70-13 win over the Saints. Bethel (11-0) accumulated 530 yards of total offense as quarterback Erik Peterson threw for 300 yards, wide receiver Mitch Hallstrom had eight receptions for 127 yards and running back Brandon Marquardt gained 113 yards on 15 carries in front of an announced crowd of 7,522.

Bethel officials decided on Tuesday to move the game from Royal Stadium to Mall of America Field because of forecasts calling for chilly temperatures.

“We want the best place to give us a chance to win, No. 1,’’ Royals coach Steve Johnson said. “No. 2, we want the best experience for our players and even for the other guys. No. 3, we want the best experience for our fans because we’re nuts about them. All three of those were big to go to the Dome.’’

That put Bethel’s skill position players in a controlled climate, on turf and against a St. Scholastica team that went 9-2 this season but is in only its sixth season as a program.

It was a mismatch as Peterson completed 25 of 27 passes and threw for four touchdowns. He has set a school record with 3,095 passing yards this season.

“Speed guys on this turf. No wind. It helps you throw the ball a little bit better,’’ Peterson said. “I think the Dome helps us out, but I think we’d do the same thing outside, no doubt in my mind.’’

Bethel opened the game with an eight-play, 62-yard scoring drive, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Marquardt with 12 minutes, 12 seconds to go in the first quarter. Petersen then hooked up with Jay Hilbrands on a 16-yard score to make it 14-0.

The ensuing kickoff was mishandled by return man Josh Simmons, and the Royals’ Josh Werness pounced on it at the Saints 7. Marquardt ran around left end for 5 yards and another touchdown, then Bethel faked the extra point, as holder Bryce Stockwell flipped a pass to Ben Price for two points and a 22-0 lead. Bethel led 43-13 at halftime.

Tyler Harper threw passes of 26 yards to Shannon James and 23 yards to Cory Gebhard for the Saints’ touchdowns.

Bethel next plays host on Saturday to Wartburg College, a team the Royals beat 30-17 on Sept. 14 in the season opener.

Alas, the rematch won’t be at the Dome. The Prep Bowl will be held next week and a monster truck rally the next weekend.

So Bethel and St. Scholastica will probably be the last college football teams to play in the Dome before it’s demolished.

“We kind of had to put that on the shelf,’’ Johnson said of a return to the Dome, “and we’re figuring out ways to heat our field with a lot of blow dryers from all the gals … and Mitch.’’

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