Bethel knocks off St. Thomas to likely secure D-III playoff berth
Bethel turned a blocked fourth-quarter punt into a touchdown and likely a playoff berth in Saturday’s 21-15 home victory over St. Thomas.
In a game that went scoreless from late in the first quarter until early in the fourth quarter, Bethel’s punt-return team added a third and final touchdown, helping out an offense that scored two quick touchdowns to start the game.
With the Tommies’ in punt formation from 4th-and-2 on their own 28, Royals senior defensive end Kyle Kilgore broke through and blocked the punt, the ball bounding backward until senior linebacker Trent Substad fell on it in the end zone with 14:11 left in the game.
The Tommies scored on a short passing play and converted the two-point conversion to pull within 21-15 with 2:20 left, but could get no closer after their ensuing onside kick bounded high in the air but was recovered by Bethel’s Mathias Durie at the St. Thomas 43.
Both teams entered Saturday with 8-1 records after each had lost its only game this season to rival St. John’s in October.
Bethel did so, losing 34-6 on Oct. 6 and St. Thomas lost to St. John’s 40-20 the next week.
On Saturday, Bethel scored twice in the game’s first seven minutes and then held on to a 14-7 lead by late in the first quarter all the way until they turned that blocked punt into a touchdown recovery and another two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter’s opening minute.
The Royals turned two long running plays into that early 14-0 lead, one longer than the other.
Running back Sam Gibas ran 41 yards for a touchdown — breaking through the left side at the line of scrimmage — and a 7-0 lead with 10:44 still left in the first quarter.
After St. Thomas went 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, they pinned Bethel deep in their own territory, driving them all the way back to the Royals’ own 7-yard line.
Bethel quarterback Jaran Roste simply took a snap out of a shotgun format with his own end zone at his back, waited for the blocking to develop and then broke free up the middle, running 93 yards on a quarterback draw for that 14-0 lead.
St. Thomas drew within seven points with 1:22 left in the first quarter when Tommies quarterback Jacques Perra threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to receive Gabe Green.
The game went scoreless on a frozen field for the next two quarters until Bethel turned that blocked punt into a touchdown.
The Royals held onto their 21-7 lead when they stopped St. Thomas on 4th-and-9 from the Royals 15-yard-line with 7:09 left.