Wheaton, Ill. - The Wheaton College football team lost a 15-10 battle with Bethel University on Saturday afternoon in the Second Round of the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs. Wheaton ends its season with a 10-2 record, while Bethel is now 11-1. Bethel will play at St. Thomas next Saturday in a Quarterfinal Round game of the playoffs.
With 2:02 left in the first quarter, running back Joey Skogen completed a 12-yard touchdown pass to open wide receiver Freddy Ellis to give Wheaton a 7-0 lead. Ellis' touchdown capped a six-play drive that went 60 yards. Wheaton's 7-0 edge would hold for the remainder of the first half and would be the score at halftime.
A Wheaton fumble at its own 45-yard line led to Bethel's first points of the game. The Royals reached the end zone 11 plays after the Wheaton fumble on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Josh Aakre. The ensuing two-point conversion for Bethel failed as Wheaton held a 7-6 lead 7:52 left in the third quarter. Bethel kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired to end the third quarter to give the Royals a 9-7 lead.
Wheaton junior Scott Roche booted a 49-yard field goal with 11:51 remaining in the game to give Wheaton a 10-9 advantage in the contest. Four drives later, Bethel capped a 39-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Aakre to Logan Flannery. The ensuing two-point conversion failed as the Royals took a 15-10 lead with 1:37 remaining in the game.
On the following drive, Wheaton got the football to the Bethel 29-yard line; however, on fourth down with five yards to go, the Bethel defense stopped Wheaton two yards short of the first down to give the Royals the ball. After the Wheaton defense stopped the ensuing Bethel drive, the Thunder regained the ball with 16-seconds remaining in the game. The Wheaton drive started at the Thunder 44-yard line and consecutive 12-yard and 11-yard completions to Ellis put the ball at the Bethel 33-yard line with six seconds remaining. Wheaton's final pass fell incomplete as time expired, with the Thunder rally falling short.
Following the game Wheaton head coach Mike Swider noted, "That's a tough way to lose a game. We had our opportunities. But we didn't take advantage of them." He added, "We had a chance to win right down to the very end. I thought we were going to win. I thought our offense was going to go down and score and get the win." He noted of his team's season, "They've played so hard all year. We've won four games coming from behind. This team plays the entire game. I'm so proud of them. They competed for four quarters all year. They gave us everything they had and held nothing back. I couldn't have asked them to work any harder, to train any harder, to do any more. They did everything I asked them to do."
Wheaton recorded 212 yards of offense today, running for 104 yards and passing for 108. Bethel had 318 offensive yards, with 240 yards on the ground and 78 passing yards.
Defensive end Robert Ramsay led a strong effort by the Wheaton defense with 17 total tackles (five solo), including 1-1/2 quarterback sacks (10 yards). Juniors JD East and Jordan Chapman each made 13 total tackles, as Chapman recovered a Bethel fumble. Linebackers Cory Hart and Richard Jacobson each made 11 tackles, with Jacobson making two tackles for lost yardage (-11 yards). Brian McMullen made 10 total tackles, with an interception.
Thunder quarterback Jordan Roberts completed 13 of his 23 passing attempts for 96 yards and he ran for 47 yards. Joey Skogen ran for 45 yards on 11 carries with the first-quarter touchdown pass. Ellis ended his Wheaton career with five receptions for 50 yards and the first-quarter touchdown catch.
Flannery carried the ball 30 times for 141 yards and he caught a pair of passes for 27 yards, with the touchdown catch to lead the Bethel offensive attack. Aakre completed seven of his 19 passing attempts for 78 yards, with one touchdown. The Royals' quarterback ran for 61 yards on 19 carries. Linebacker Ross Petterson led the Bethel defense with 10 tackles and Mike Sedjo added seven tackles.
Bethel head coach Steve Johnson, noted after the game, "Our defense is the number one key. We are a defense that runs well and adjusts well and keeps the game tight." He continued, "We missed some passes that were open and close. You can't get discouraged."