Miscues end Bethel's football season, but team found success in 2018

Despite a tough 26-12 loss to UW-Whitewater, the Royals enjoyed a great season in which the team finished 11-2, took second in the MIAC, and won two playoff games.

By Jason Schoonover '09, content specialist

December 04, 2018 | 9:30 a.m.

The Bethel University team couldn’t overcome early miscues and turnovers in a 26-12 loss to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

The Bethel University team couldn’t overcome early miscues and turnovers in a 26-12 loss to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday in Whitewater, Wisconsin.

An incredible 2018 season and deep playoff run came to an end Saturday, December 1, for the Bethel University football team.

The Royals (11-2) lost 26-12 to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (13-0) in the third round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The loss ends a playoff run that saw the Royals rush past the Wartburg Knights 41-14 at Royal Stadium on November 17 before stifling North Central College’s high-powered offense in a 27-24 win on November 24 in Naperville, Illinois.

After overcoming a slow start against North Central, miscues put the Royals in an early hole against Whitewater in windy and rainy conditions. After a three-and-out on the Royals’ first possession, a wayward snap led to a blocked punt that gave the Warhawks the ball on the Bethel 23-yard line, leading to a field goal. Bethel’s next two possessions ended in interceptions that gave the Warhawks the ball deep in Bethel territory. Each resulted in a touchdown—though the Warhawks missed one extra point—to put Bethel behind 16-0.

On the next drive, Whitewater forced Bethel to attempt a punt after a three-and-out, but the snap was bobbled and the Royals couldn’t get the punt off, turning the ball over on downs. Whitewater again took over deep in Bethel territory and scored another touchdown to go up 23-0.

But the Royals started to claw back into the game later in the second quarter. Quarterback Jaran Roste ’20 capped a six-play, 44-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run, but the Royals couldn’t complete a two-point conversion attempt. Bethel’s defense held on the ensuing Whitewater drive, setting up Bethel’s offense for an eight-play, 77-yard drive that ended in Roste running for an 11-yard touchdown. But the Royals missed the extra point to make it 23-12 at halftime.

The second half started strong for the Royals, with its defense stifling Whitewater and the Royals offense driving the ball to the Warhawk’s 3-yard line. However, the Warhawks intercepted a Roste pass in the end zone and returned it 20 yards. The Royals’ defense held the Warhawks to a field goal in the second half, but the Royals’ offense would not score in the second half of the 26-12 loss.

While Bethel’s defense held Whitewater to one completion on nine pass attempts for eight yards in the game, the Warhawks rushed for 230 yards on 50 carries and controlled the clock in the second half to secure the 26-12 win. The Warhawks held Bethel’s offense to a season-low 65 rushing yards, while Roste threw for 156 yards.

Bethel defensive end Kyle Kilgore ’19 capped a strong playoff showing with another big game for the Royals, recording seven solo tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for a loss. In three playoff games, Kilgore notched 18 solo, two assisted tackles, seven sacks, eight-and-half tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. Linebacker Drew Ragsdale ’19, the Royals’ leading tackler in 2018, led Bethel with 10 tackles on Saturday.

Despite the loss, the Royals end a successful season, finishing second in the MIAC and making the team’s ninth playoff appearance. This season continued a streak of 25 consecutive years with a winning record against MIAC opponents, and head coach Steve Johnson increased his career wins total to 218.