The Royals take down Johnnies for the first time in nine years.
By Sebastian Studier and Annika Carr
For the first time since 2013, the Bethel University football team defeated St. John’s University, the MIAC frontrunner and No. 2 team in the nation, 28-24 Saturday at Royal Stadium.
The Johnnies started the game with a methodical and time-consuming touchdown drive. Down 7-0, Royals junior running back Bryce Kunkle bolted through the line of scrimmage and rumbled for a 45-yard touchdown.
No other play in the game made the stands erupt more than when Henry Trost, the St. John’s running back, was thrown the ball along the line of scrimmage and a Bethel defender went for the tackle. Trost split-jumped over the defender, hurdling him and ran for additional yards.
The Royals and Johnnies traded punches, and Bethel’s final punch came when the Royals were trailing 24-21 . Quarterback Jaran Roste, in his first game back from injury, found Micah Niewald for a 72-yard touchdown pass. The score occurred with 9:22 remaining in the game. Roste hit a streaking Niewald along the Johnnie sideline and Niewald juked a defender after the catch, running into the endzone to score the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Royal fans could finally sigh in relief when Kamari Durmas intercepted an Aaron Syverson pass and returned it 26 yards, regaining Bethel’s possession of the ball, ending the Johnnies last gasp at a drive and effectively securing the victory for the Royals with 2:02 remaining in the game.
“It’s a great atmosphere. Our fans were crazy fun. The game’s back and forth, the excitement was ridiculous and we’re really proud of our guys for hanging in there,” Bethel coach Steve Johnson said. “Right to the end they gave their hearts away and we got to win. It’s a blast, so everybody’s happy.”