Matt Mehlhorn's 102-yard pick six set the Bethel record for longest play in their 41-17 victory over Gustavus. | Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers
Sports | Jared Nelson
Bethel’s football team preserved their undefeated record and No. 5-national ranking on Saturday, defeating the Gusties from Gustavus Adolphus College in a game at Royal Stadium in Arden Hills, Minn.
Gustavus won the coin flip but chose to defer until the second half, and Bethel wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. Junior quarterback Erik Peterson found his favorite target of the afternoon, Mitch Hallstrom for a 35-yard score.
The Gusties answered with a field goal on their first drive and the score was 6-3 in the early stages.
Following a Peterson interception, Gustavus had the ball inside Bethel’s five-yard line, when sophomore safety Matt Mehlhorn picked off the Gustie pass in the endzone and returned it down the sideline for the 102-yard touchdown. Mehlhorn’s score was the longest play in Royal football history. The previous record was 95 yards, set in 2001.
Bethel’s 13-3 lead was slashed again as a result of another short Gustie touchdown run, and the teams went into halftime with Bethel leading 13-10.
On Gustavus’ first drive in the second half, sophomore linebacker Landon Mathis intercepted the pass, giving the Royals great field position at their opponent’s 46-yard line. Peterson found Hallstrom a few plays later for a 5-yard touchdown pass, and their second scoring connection of the day put Bethel up 20-10 in the third quarter.
Mehlhorn came up big on Gustavus’ next drive, flying off the end of the defensive line to deflect the Gustie field goal attempt. The blocked field goal was the third time Bethel had stopped Gustavus inside the 10-yard line in the game.
Then, Bethel’s offense hit its stride. Head coach Steve Johnson called for the double pass, as Peterson hit Hallstrom on the bubble screen who turned and found fellow receiver Jay Hilbrands on the fly route. Hilbrands did the rest, scampering 66 yards to the endzone.
A quarterback draw from Peterson and a one-yard touchdown from Brandon Marquardt accounted for Bethel’s fourth quarter scores, and Bethel rolled to the 41-17 victory.
Mehlhorn provided the fireworks for Bethel’s defense, highlighted by his interception returned for a touchdown and blocked field goal to go along with nine tackles.
Fellow sophomore Landon Mathis had a career day as well, intercepting Gustie quarterback Mitch Hendricks two times and recording ten total tackles.
Hallstrom led the way for Bethel’s offense, totaling 135 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns. He also had one passing touchdown on one attempt for 66 yards.
Bethel will look to stay perfect on the season next week as they travel down Snelling Ave. to take on the Hamline Pipers. Hamline is 2-5 on the season and 1-5 in the MIAC. The game begins at 1:00 p.m.