RIVER FOREST, Ill. – Bethel is moving on to the second round of the Division III playoffs with a 24-23 win against Concordia-Chicago on Saturday. The hosting Cougars (10-1) scored with 0:18 left in the fourth quarter, but J.D. Mehlhorn broke up the ensuing two-point conversion to give Concordia-Chicago its first loss of the season and an early exit from the 2012 postseason.
A sold out crowd at Concordia Stadium saw the Royals take the 24-10 lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter, but the Cougars never quit. Trailing 24-17 with under seven minutes in the final period, Bethel quarterback Erik Peterson was stripped in an attempt to place the ball over the goal line, which kept the score within seven. CUC later drove down the field to score what appeared to be the equalizer, but a failed pass attempt by Cougar quarterback Jake Koehler ended the game with the final 24-23.
The Royals’ defense proved to be the difference early on. Inside linebacker Seth Mathis recorded his fifth interception of the season on the Cougars’ first drive, which was inside the Bethel 20-yard-line. A quick 3-and-out gave the ball back to Concordia, but Jordan Anderson followed suite with his first interception of the season on the Bethel 18.
BU turned the turnover into points at the 4:11 mark in the first quarter, when freshmen kicker Nathaniel Van Loon kicked a career-best 40-yard field goal to give the Royals the 3-0 advantage.
Bethel put together another six-minute drive on their next possession, however, this time the Royals put six on the board. Erik Peterson connected with Mitch Hallstrom on a 4th-and-7 touchdown pass from the CUC 22-yard-line, which put BU up 10-0.
Hallstrom wasn’t done scoring, as he threw a touchdown to fellow wide out Jay Hilbrands on the next Bethel possession. Peterson threw a bubble screen to Hallstrom, who then stepped back and fired a pass that got tipped right into the hands of Hilbrands, who then clipped the pylon.
Trailing 17-3, Concordia cut into the BU lead with an 8-play, 68-yard drive to go into the half down 17-10.
The Royals weren’t done scoring, though, as a solid rushing performance by Marshall Klitzke helped Bethel find the end zone with 6:23 left in the third quarter. Erik Peterson’s one-yard carry gave BU just enough, as it and the Van Loon PAT was the difference maker.
Bethel finished the day with 21 first downs, totaling 350 yards. Klitzke rushed for 134 yards on 18 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, Peterson completed 16 of 23 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps the most impressive stat was no turnovers throughout the entire 60 minutes.
Bethel’s quarterback connected with Mitch Hallstrom eight times for 100 yards. Hallstrom had an exceptional one-handed catch late in the fourth quarter on a fourth down play that extended the Royals’ drive.
Defensively, Seth Mathis finished with 15 tackles—eight solo—and one interception returned for 31 yards. Brett Skoog ended with 10 tackles, including one for loss.
Royals place-kicker Nathaniel Van Loon was also astonishing. Van Loon not only nailed a 40-yarder, but he put every kickoff inside the Cougar 5.
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