October 16, 2013

Bethel brothers bring the chemistry

More news about: Bethel
Seth (back) and Landon Mathis are one of five sets of brothers competing together at Bethel.
Bethel athletics photo by Carl Schmuland

So often, football players describe their relationships with teammates like that of brothers. They care for one another. They help one another. They defend one another.

At Bethel, that relationship can be taken literally as the Royals line up each week with five sets of brothers on their roster.

Brandon and Bryce Marquardt, J.D. and Matt Mehlhorn, Landon and Seth Mathis, Daniel and Steven Plocker and Dillon and Dalton Crum have helped No. 5 Bethel begin the season 5-0 – standing atop the MIAC as the only unbeaten team remaining.

“We believe that chemistry is probably the first piece of our whole football program,” said 25th-year head coach Steve Johnson.

“I think the older guy has got some wisdom and has gone through some of the things, so he can help the young guy,” the coach continued. “But the young guy, I think, can kind of bring some new life to the older brother. … As close of a team as we have, and like to have, there’s nothing like a brother or blood.”

For Brandon Marquardt, he urged his brother to join him on the gridiron at Bethel.

“The main reason I came was to play baseball, but Coach J and my brother really pushed me to play football,” said younger brother Bryce, who has caught 10 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown during his freshman season.

“I really just wanted Bryce to go where he thought was best,” Brandon said. “I let him know the pros and cons at Bethel from my point of view and let him know that playing with him would be a lot of fun, but in the end this decision is up to him.”

Brandon is the team’s leading rusher this season, racking up 584 yards and seven touchdowns through five games. That notoriety has had an impact on Bryce.

“Since Brandon is such a stud, everyone on campus knows him and often refers to me as Brandon’s brother,” he said.

But Bryce does not mind being associated with his older brother when it comes to returning kickoffs and the public address announcer says ‘and back deep for the Royals, the Marquardt brothers.’

Based on his own personal experience, J.D. Mehlhorn thought Bethel would be a good fit for his younger brother Matt. So J.D. – now a senior with 16 total tackles this year – urged his brother to make the same choice he did.

“I know my brother as well as anyone and I knew that Bethel would be a great place for him,” said J.D., who was All-MIAC and third team All-Region last season. “I let him make his own decision, but I shared with him my experiences at Bethel to that point.”

Despite the encouragement, Matt said it was decision not to be taken lightly.

“I remember thinking I didn’t want to follow exactly in my brother’s footsteps, and going to Bethel to play D-back and study physics was doing that exactly. At the same point, I really look up to my brother and felt like Bethel was a great fit for me too,” Matt said. “Coach J told me choosing Bethel because of J.D. would be dumb, but not choosing Bethel because of J.D. would be just as dumb.”

The decision to attend Bethel has worked out, and two weeks ago the Mehlhorns found themselves in the starting lineup with one another.

“My brother and I both started in the secondary against Carleton,” said J.D., who started at right safety while Matt played right corner. “I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to get to play a game next to my brother and up until that game I hadn’t. … It was such a blast being out there with him.”

Matt, who has 19 tackles and has forced a fumble this year, agreed with his elder sibling.

“My favorite thing about competing side by side with my brother is that I get a chance to play with someone that I used to play backyard football with, someone I grew up with and someone I love,” Matt said. “There is a deeper connection than teammates.”

Seth and Landon Mathis have experienced the pleasure of playing collegiate football side by side as well.

The linebackers are two of the Royals’ top tacklers. Seth is the team’s leader with 51 total tackles to go with two interceptions and a touchdown while Landon has registered 30 tackles this season.

“(My favorite thing is) having the ability to be on the field the same time as Seth because we never had the chance to play together at Anoka,” Landon said, referring to their high school football days not far from Bethel.

Landon credited his brother for an easy transition into college life.

“Many of his friends really welcomed me in,” Landon said.

Bethel wide receiver Daniel Plocker wanted his younger brother Steven to make his own decision when it came time to pick a college. But deep down, he wanted Steven to come with him to Arden Hills.

“I didn’t want to overwhelm him,” Daniel said. “However, the day before signing day when he was choosing between Augustana and Bethel, I did finally text and told him that I really wanted him here.”

“I saw what a positive affect being a part of Bethel’s team had on my brother,” Steven admitted.

Daniel, a junior, and Steven, a freshman, both see an upside to having the other nearby.

“My favorite part about competing alongside my brother is the fact that we are very competitive with each other,” Steven said. “We like to push each other.”

“The main advantage is having someone who you’ve spent your entire life with to share in your college experience – the ups and downs,” Daniel said. “A disadvantage is that I can’t make up stories about how cool I was in high school because he could tell everyone the truth.”

Dillon and Dalton Crum have always been close. So when Dillon chose to leave the state of Washington, it paved the way for Dalton to join him.

“I chose to come to Bethel after visiting and seeing the community here,” Dillon said. “The community just on campus is amazing, and it is magnified on the football team. I could really feel that and it made me want to be a part of it.”

“Being able to play with my brother definitely influenced my decision and is an added bonus of coming here to Bethel,” Dalton said. “My brother and I have always been really close. For as long as I can remember he’s been my best friend. I jumped at the opportunity to come to the same college and play football on the same team.”

Dillon is a sophomore on the offensive line while Dalton is spending his freshman season on the defensive line.

“He challenges me to be better,” Dillon said. “It doesn’t feel too good when your younger brother shows you up, so it makes me want to do better.”

Dalton said one of his favorite memories in his young collegiate football career was going one-on-one with his older brother in a drill during practice.

“I lost most of the time, but just the competition and knowing that we were making each other better made it a very memorable drill and experience,” Dalton said.

Though competing with one another is memorable, Dalton said the best part is simply being close with his brother.

“The biggest advantage is always having someone close, who I know will be there for me no matter the circumstances,” Dalton said. “The fact that he has a car I can borrow doesn’t hurt either.”

“The only disadvantage is having to share the car with him,” Dillon said.

The Royals took another step closer to winning their first MIAC championship since 2007 by defeating Concordia-Moorhead, 45-22, to take sole possession of first in the conference standings.

Bethel hopes to continue its positive season, but knows there are a number of challenges waiting – like this week’s matchup with three-time defending conference champ St. Thomas.

“We’ve been good for awhile, so it’s not a brand new deal,” Johnson said. “But there’s a confidence about this team that’s a little bit higher than anything I’ve felt on all the teams that we’ve had.”

Johnson said if Bethel continues to have success, the Royals will have to play together and win together. Like brothers.

Redlands claims Smudge Pot

After dropping its first two games to ranked opponents, Redlands has won two in a row. The Bulldogs’ most recent win was a 10-7 decision over rival Cal Lutheran to secure the Smudge Pot Trophy.

Redlands’ win snapped Cal Lutheran’s 28-game SCIAC winning streak.

“They beat us at the point of attack,” CLU coach Ben McEnroe told the Ventura County Star. “They got it done and you have to give their defense a lot of credit. I thought they had a better plan of attack than we did.” 

The Bulldogs extended their 3-0 halftime lead when Curtis Tanquary rumbled into the end zone from 1-yard out.

The Kingsmen – who last lost in SCIAC play on Nov. 1 2008, winning four consecutive league titles in the process – got a 1-yard touchdown run of their own from Wayne Chapman in the fourth quarter to pull within 10-7. CLU had two field goal attempts to tie the game. But both kicks were unsuccessful.

The win moves Redlands into a three-way tie atop the SCIAC standings with Chapman and La Verne.

The rest of the West

The WIAC’s top teams rolled this week. Paul Riet racked up 193 yards receiving and a touchdown as UW-Platteville blasted UW-River Falls 49-7. The UW-Oshkosh defense registered 13 tackles for a loss, including six quarterback sacks to overwhelm UW-La Crosse 30-6. Matt Behrendt threw a school-record six touchdown passes to help UW-Whitewater cruise by UW-Stout 55-13. … Bryan Bradshaw threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns to help Dubuque level Luther 56-20 in IIAC play. … St. Thomas quarterback Matt O’Connell was injured but the Tommies held on to defeat MIAC foe Gustavus Adolphus, 20-12. …The Northwest Conference featured three blowouts this week as Willamette took down Whitworth, 50-21, Pacific Lutheran defeated Lewis and Clark, 42-21, and Pacific topped Puget Sound 56-14. … All five UMAC matchups were won by the road teams. Greenville and St. Scholastica kept their spotless UMAC records in tact with wins at MacMurray and Northwestern (Minn.), respectively.

Rank’em

The West Region has 11 teams ranked in this week’s Top 25, with six remaining in the top-10.

Linfield stayed ranked No. 2 nationally, receiving six first-place votes. The Wildcats’ Northwest Conference rivals Pacific Lutheran and Willamette check in at Nos. 17 and 22, respectively, while Pacific received 12 votes.

Bethel is still ranked No. 5 as the only undefeated team in the MIAC, which featurs four ranked teams. St. Thomas slipped three spots to No. 9, Concordia-Moorhead dropped to No. 24 and St. John’s entered the top 25 for the second time this season.

The WIAC has three teams in the top-10. UW-Platteville and UW-Oshkosh each moved on spot to Nos. 7 and 8, respectively. UW-Whitewater is No. 10 and UW-Stevens Point received one vote this week.

Coe dropped two spots to No. 21 in this week’s poll, and IIAC foe Wartburg received one vote.

Number of the week

28 – no, not because Cal Lutheran’s 28-game SCIAC winning streak ended. But rather 28 is the ‘number of the week’ because Hamline snapped its 28-game MIAC losing streak. Chad Rogosheske picked up his first conference win as head coach at Hamline. The 31-28 win over St. Olaf marked the first MIAC victory for the Pipers since Nov. 14, 2009 when they lost to the Oles.

Looking ahead

Coe will host Dubuque in a battle of IIAC unbeatens. The winner will be in position to make a push for the league championship.

A battle of top-10 teams in the MIAC is also compelling. St. Thomas heads to Bethel as one of three teams chasing the unbeaten Royals.

Redlands hosts La Verne in a meeting of 2-0 SCIAC teams. Both squads are tied with undefeated Chapman in the conference standings.

And in the WIAC, UW-Stevens Point gets its first chance to prove itself as a league contender when the Pointers host UW-Platteville.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, break-out players or any other storylines in the West. Or just drop me a note and let me know what you like or don’t about the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter at @DU_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith covers high school and Division III athletics for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and contributes to multiple publications in addition to his duties at the Daily Union, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He graduated from UW-Whitewater with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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