Sports | Jared Nelson
Sophomore running back Marshall Klitzke had an impressive game, rushing for 109 total yards, including one touch down. | Photo by Drea Chalmers
The Augsburg Auggies came to town on Saturday in an attempt to spoil Bethel’s Homecoming on the gridiron. The Royals defended their home turf and their number three national ranking in a 31-28 victory over the Auggies.
Bethel’s first drive appeared to be stalled as they lined up to punt on fourth down, but a direct snap to running back Marshall Klitzke allowed him to scamper for the first down. The scoring got started on the next play with a pass from Erik Peterson to Reese Walker, and the Royals lead 7-0 early on.
The Auggies answered with a 70-yard drive of their own, finishing with a 15-yard touchdown run. The Auggies capped off their score with two-point conversion to give them the 8-7 lead.
As was the case for much of the afternoon, the Royals handed it off to Klitzke, who was able to find holes behind the Bethel offensive line. A 2-yard touchdown run gave Bethel the 14-8 lead just after the start of the second quarter.
Augsburg answered quickly again as quarterback Ayrton Scott went to his favorite target, Joey Sonnenfeld, for a 12-yard touchdown. The teams would finish the half tied at 14.
The halftime adjustments by head coach Steve Johnson and company paid dividends in the third quarter, as the Royals came out of the break with a spark. They drove down the field efficiently, relying on inside runs and short passes. Peterson found Klitzke in the red zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass, putting Bethel up 21-14.
The defense was able to contain the read-option of Scott as well, forcing punts on subsequent possessions. Klitzke’s success up the middle opened up the play-action passing game in the second half, as Peterson found Jay Hilbrands up top for a 38-yard score with five minutes left in the third quarter.
An Andrew O’Reilly field goal increased Bethel’s lead to 17, up 31-14 with 13 minutes to play. All signs pointed to Bethel cruising to the victory, but Augsburg was far from finished.
An acrobatic Auggie interception added to the visitors’ momentum. The Scott-Sonnenfeld combination produced again, this time for a 27-yard touchdown. Bethel’s lead was now just 3, up 31-28 with 3:23 remaining. The Auggies lined up for the onside kick.
The bounding ball found the sure hands of Jesse Phenow, and the Royals were three minutes away from victory. Bethel lined up on third down and the teams exchanged strategic timeouts with just over a minute to play. Peterson rolled out and his pass found the outstretched arms of freshman tight end Drew Neuville for the first down. With Augsburg out of timeouts, Bethel lined up in victory formation and won their Homecoming game 31-28.
Bethel survived the loss of two of their safeties in the first quarter. David Morgan hurt his shoulder during Augsburg’s first drive, and Dan Leidall left early due to an apparent head injury.
The Royals will return to practice on Monday as they prepare to travel to Moorhead to play the Cobbers of Concordia in their third MIAC contest.