Oct. 3, 2009

Courtesy of Bethel

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. - Heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. Call it whatever you want, but a 49-yard field goal by Saint John's with 7.7 seconds remaining was the undoing of the Bethel Royals today. In a game that Bethel all but controlled for the first three quarters, Saint John's found a way to win on their Homecoming, making it the third straight year that the game was decided in the last minute of play.

Bethel got on the scoreboard first after Logan Flannery (Jr., Lakeville, Minn.) took a handoff and pitched back to quarterback Josh Aakre (So., Dawson, Minn.) on a flea-flicker, leaving Jay Hilbrands (Fr., Clara City, Minn.) wide open for Aakre's 52-yard touchdown pass. With Matt Wetherell's (So., Glen Ellyn, Ill.) extra point, the score was 7-0.

After two scoreless quarters, Bethel got another touchdown to go up 14-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The touchdown drive was short in terms of distance, requiring only seven yards, but the Royals needed all four downs to do it. The drive was set up by a Trent Pearson (Jr., Shakopee, Minn.) interception after he deflected a Joe Boyle pass and caught it at the Johnnie 46-yard line, then rumbling 39-yards to get the ball inside the Johnnie 10. After three rushing plays, Aakre found Flannery in the end zone for the touchdown on a two-yard pass.

Saint John's began their comeback by scoring with 9:25 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 61-yard drive. Boyle got into the end zone on a three-yard play to make the score 14-7 with the extra point. The Johnnies then narrowed the gap even further to 14-13 with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter with 1:47 remaining. However, the extra point kick sailed wide right, allowing Bethel to retain a one point lead.

The Royals got the ball back and forced the Johnnies to use all three of their timeouts before punting the ball back after less than a minute of possession time. With just 1:16 remaining, the Johnnies began their drive and though Bethel had Saint John's stopped at the 32-yard line with 7.7 seconds remaining, Russell Gliadon's kick had just enough on it, with just enough accuracy for the game-winning score.

It was a game of ball control, not as much in the sense of who could hang on to the ball longer, but  more in the sense of who could hang on to it period. Saint John's fumbled on their first drive, but Bethel was unable to capitalize on the turnover. However, in the second quarter, Flannery lost a handoff, which Saint John's recovered. Not to worry - on the very next play, David Vavra (So., Cambridge, Minn.) intercepted Johnnie quarterback Boyle at the Bethel 10-yard line, giving the Royals the ball back. Unfortunately, after gaining 53 yards down to the Saint John's 37-yard line, Aakre had a pass intercepted. Not to be outdone, Brendan Flaherty (Jr., Shoreview, Minn.) picked off Boyle with less than a minute remaining in the first half, allowing Bethel to preserve their 7-0 lead.

Statistically, Flannery earned his fourth consecutive 100 yard game by reaching the century mark right on the nose on 21 carries. Aakre was 12-for-18 passing for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 37 yards rushing on 13 carries. He was not sacked during the game, and did a good job of moving the ball around, hitting six different receivers. Joel Quick (Sr., Johnston, Iowa) led the receivers with 38 yards on three receptions.

On defense, Nathan Voronyak (Sr., Orono, Minn.) recorded 15 tackles and forced two fumbles. He also had a tackle for a loss. Ross Petterson (Jr., Maple Grove, Minn.) and Cory Svihla (Jr., Foley, Minn.) finished with 10 tackles each.

The loss drops Bethel to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference, while Saint John's remains undefeated at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the MIAC. Bethel remains on the road for their next game, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. next Saturday against St. Olaf in Northfield.