Bethel enters 2014 at number 6 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 12-1 (8-0) Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
In his second full season under center, junior quarterback Erik Peterson led the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in passing yards (2,795), completions (206), completion percentage (70.3), finished second in passing touchdowns (23) and yards per game (237.2) as he led the Bethel Royals to a perfect regular season and an appearance in the D3 National Quarterfinals. As fantastic as the Jim Christopherson MIAC MVP was, he might have been overshadowed by his teammate on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Seth Mathis led the defense in every way – stats like tackles (131) and interceptions (5) – but also as the defensive quarterback. He was named to the American Football Coaches Association All-American team for his efforts.
The Royals were fantastic last season, and won the MIAC title for the first time since 2007 with an 8-0 conference record. It had to feel good after five oh-so-close seasons with 6-2 or 7-1 records for second or third place finishes. Then in the D3 playoffs, the Royals proved their conference title was no joke by absolutely destroying St. Scholastica 70-13 and taking down Wartburg in round two 34-27, before they finally fell to North Central Illinois 41-17 to end their season.
– Jeff Schmidt T – First team All-MIAC
– Bubba Freidlund OL – First team All-MIAC
– Tom Keefe QB – 33/56 (58.93%), 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 17 carries, 129 yards
– Jesse Phenow RB – 60 carries, 224 yards, 5 TDs, 15 receptions, 118 yards, 1 TD
– Mitch Hallstrom WR – First team All-MIAC, 93 receptions, 1,328 yards, 9 TDs
– Jared Schultz WR – 27 receptions, 605 yards, 4 TDs
– Jay Hilbrands WR – 40 receptions, 553 yards, 6 TDs
– Luke Buttenhoff DE – First team All-MIAC, 63 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 7 pass defences, 2 FRs, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick
– Seth Mathis ILB – AFCA All-American, first team All-MIAC, 131 tackles, 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 8 pass defences, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 blocked kicks
– Josh Treimer CB – Second team All-MIAC, 58 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INTs, 11 pass defences, 1 FF
What to Watch For
New Crew at WR – The Royals gained a total of 3,455 yards through the air last season, a solid figure good for ninth in D3 and best in the MIAC, but they lost five of their top receivers this offseason to graduation. Those five, along with graduated running back Jesse Phenow, accounted for 2,882 of their 3,448 passing yards. We’ll see just how good Erik Peterson is this season. If he can pull a Tom Brady and continue to produce at a high level with new, inexperienced receivers, he’ll win the MIAC MVP again, without question.
Bethel lost quite a few players this offseason, from both sides of the ball. Their receiving corps is entirely new. Their offensive line is half-new. Their defense lost half of the line, half of the backfield, and Seth Mathis – who was the man as well as the team’s only AFCA All-American, one of only two AFCA All-Americans nominated for a second time last season. Even with all those losses though, this team isn’t gutted. The Royals placed eight players each on the first and second team All-MIAC lists, and half of them will be back – three first-teamers (QB Erik Peterson, RB Brandon Marquardt, and DB Matt Mehlhorn) and five second-teamers (RB Marshall Klitzke, OL Joshua Perkins, ILB Landon Mathis, OLB Kevin Flaherty, and OLB Ben Wahlquist). They’ve got the John Gagliardi MIAC Coach of the Year Steve Johnson as well.
Fans should brace themselves to take a half-step back this season. They’re still the most talented team in the conference, but not by as wide a margin as last year. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the Royals repeat, but with St. Thomas and Concordia breathing down their necks there will at least be some drama involved.