Bethel’s identity hasn’t changed since the November loss to Whitewater despite losing key contributors to graduation

By Jared Martinson

Drew Larsen doesn’t deny it’s something the team thinks about.

“Coming into the year ranked 10th (by d3football.com), it’s definitely in the back of our minds,” he said.

The Bethel football team entered the 2019 season opener with many returning pieces from a national quarterfinal team in 2018, and expectations are high. Except the standard internally is no different from any other year: believe in the foundation and fundamentals preached every day.

“Coach J always tells us to trust our base, not do anything we don’t do,” Larsen, a senior wide receiver, said.

Trust the base they did. The Royals (1-0) picked apart Simpson College 42-10 in a game that saw unexpected rainfall and a stout defensive performance.

Senior wide receiver Drew Larsen hauls in a touchdown from Jaran Roste in the second quarter. Larsen tallied five catches for 107 yards and two scores in the 42-10 Bethel win over Simpson. | Photo by Katie Viesselman

With all backfield pieces returning, the offense is to be one of the most versatile and feared in the conference. They took a quarter to get rolling but a huge second frame opened up the lead at 21-3 when Mike Delich scoring on a 54-yard run and Larsen making an impressive catch in the end zone from quarterback Jaran Roste. The Royals put together nearly 150 yards of offense in eight minutes after only recording 100 yards in the first 22.

“We had a great camp,” Larsen said. “We definitely have chemistry with quarterbacks and receivers.”

Senior running back Joel Koenecke breaks through a gap on Bethel’s first scoring drive. Koenecke recently made a switch from wide receiver to running back, his natural position. | Photo by Katie Viesselman

The second half was a showcase of the other leg of the base: a dominant defense.

Five players tied for the lead with seven tackles, and senior linebacker Kyle Peach highlighted the constant pressure with two and a half tackles for loss and a sack. He’ll be a big part of the leadership that needs to step up after the Royals graduated half their starting defense from last season.

“As long as we stick to the plan, execute our stuff, we’ll be in good shape,” Peach said.

Surrounded by hundreds of Bethel faithful in the postgame huddle, head coach Steve Johnson praised his crew for a disciplined, committed effort. His tone was as grateful and proud in its 31st year as it likely was when he began this journey.

Bethel heads to River Falls next Saturday. The next home game is slated for October 5.

Game notes:

  • Quarterback Jaran Roste exited the game in the third quarter with a lower body injury, later confirmed as a leg cramp. He sat the rest of the game as a precaution and Jake Marsh took his place.
  • Cornerback Tavian Swanson left the game in the first half with a thumb injury and did not return.
  • Defensive end Max Janes scored the first touchdown of the game on a one-yard rush from the fullback position.
  • The Royals accumulated 533 total yards on offense compared to Simpson’s 294.
  • Freshman kicker Bjorn Charles was five-for-five on extra point attempts in the game.

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