Quarterback Erik Peterson was 25-of-27 for 300 yards and four touchdowns in Bethel's playoff victory against St. Scholastica. With this aerial showcase, the junior reached 2,795 passing yards on the season, a school record. | Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers
Sports | Matt Kelley for The Clarion
Sheltered from the bitter cold by the cozy confines of the Metrodome, the Royals’ offense looked like the Greatest Show on Turf on Saturday, lighting up the College of St. Scholastica and continuing their historic season with a 70-13 playoff victory.
Quarterback Erik Peterson relentlessly moved the ball across the Mall of America Field turf, leading the Bethel offense to touchdowns on nine of his 10 drives.
Before being spelled by Tom Keefe with 11 minutes to play, Peterson led Bethel to a 51-point lead and was 25-of-27 for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
“We felt like we, number one, needed to keep him in the pocket,” St. Scholastica head coach Greg Carlson said. “Some of his rollouts hurt us. He threw the ball well on the run - really well. If you look at the passes they completed that really hurt us, it was when he was on the move.”
There was no better exhibition of Peterson’s mobility - and effectiveness throwing on the move - than a sequence late in the second quarter. Just one play after a dazzling run where Peterson hurdled a defender on his way to a 10-yard gain, he delivered a rollout touchdown pass.
Peterson began the play by sprinting left. After seeing that his initial reads weren’t open, he continued to drift toward the sideline. Peterson planted his feet just inside the boundary and threw across his body toward the middle of the field, finding receiver Jay Hilbrands in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard score.
The game served as just the latest performance in a season full of superlatives for the junior quarterback.
Saturday’s aerial showcase gave Peterson 2,795 passing yards on the season, a school record. His four touchdown passes pushed his season total to 23, leaving him one shy of the Bethel record in a single season.
But Peterson was effusive in praising his teammates after the game, refusing to pat himself on the back or contemplate his place among the best quarterbacks that have ever played in Royals’ blue and gold.
“It’s really up to these [receivers] like Mitch Hallstrom. I can trust them with anything,” Peterson said. “I can put the ball wherever and they’re going to catch it. The O-line really stepped up big today. I barely got touched, but the credit goes to the receivers, lineman and running backs.”
Hallstrom added eight catches, 127 yards and two scores to his historic season, and running back Brandon Marquardt scored three first-half touchdowns en route to a 112-yard day on 15 carries.
Bethel’s depth of playmakers isn’t lost on head coach Steve Johnson.
“When you have all those weapons and you’re coaching them, they’ve got to give up some of their [touches],” Johnson said. “That kind of blesses me more than anything else. We’re humans, and we want the stats and all that, so to give your stuff away for free is a big deal.”
The Royals will be looking to carry the momentum of a nearly flawless offensive performance into next week’s second-round playoff game.
“I think it sets the tone for the whole drive we’re going for here,” Peterson said. “We can’t look too far ahead, but the national championship is the ultimate goal.”
Bethel will play Wartburg next Saturday, November, 30 at noon. Although Bethel will be the home team, the location hasn’t been set as the Bethel athletic department looks for a field less frozen than the one at Royal Stadium. A decision will be made regarding location early next week.
The Metrodome will be occupied by the Prep Bowl next Saturday.