Bethel football team powers its way into the NCAA DIII Playoffs

The Royals rushed their way to a 9-1 finish, second place in the MIAC, and the ninth playoff appearance in program history by beating the St. Thomas Tommies 21-15 on Saturday. The team will play the Wartburg Knights at noon on Saturday, November 17.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

November 14, 2018 | 2 p.m.

After beating St. Thomas last weekend, the Bethel Royals football team is headed to its ninth NCAA DIII Playoff appearance in program history. The Royals (9-1) will host the American Rivers Conference champion Wartburg Knights (8-2) at noon on Saturday, November 17.

The Bethel University football team is playoff bound for the ninth time in program history.

The Royals finished a 9-1 regular season in style on Saturday, November 10, by rushing for 217 yards to beat No. 9-ranked St. Thomas University 21-15. The win secured a second place finish in the MIAC and a spot in the NCAA Division III Playoffs.

The No. 22-ranked Royals’ rushing attack set the tone early, despite facing a Tommies (8-2) defense that had allowed just 11 yards rushing per game and ranked second in NCAA DIII. But Bethel running back Sam Gibas ’21 capped the game’s opening drive with a 41-yard touchdown run, and Jaran Roste ’20 turned a quarterback draw into a 93-yard touchdown run to put the Royals up 14-0 midway through the first quarter. After the Tommies scored to make it 14-7, the game turned into a defensive struggle with both teams held scoreless in the second and third quarters. The Royals got back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter after Kyle Kilgore ‘19 blocked a Tommies punt and Trent Substad ’18 recovered the ball and scored a touchdown.  

The Royals will host the American Rivers Conference champion Wartburg Knights (8-2) at noon on November 17. Wartburg is a familiar foe for the Royals. Wartburg won a 2003 NCAA Playoff matchup 21-7 in Waverly, Iowa, but the Royals defeated the Knights in the 2010 playoffs in Waverly 28-20 on their way to the West Region Championship. Bethel beat Wartburg again 34-27 in the second round of the 2013 playoffs at Royal Stadium. The Knights and Royals also hooked up in the regular season openers in 2013 and 2014 with each team winning at home. In 2015, Wartburg defeated Bethel at Royal Stadium 24-14.

The win against the Tommies was head coach Steve Johnson’s 216th career victory. He’s led the Royals to all nine of the team’s playoff appearances, and this season continued a streak of 25 consecutive years with a winning record against MIAC opponents.

Read a full recap of the victory.