Bethel ends Wartburg's run with 28-20 win

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Logan Flannery ran for 137 yards and a touchdown, going over 4,900 career rushing yards in a Bethel uniform.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

WAVERLY, Iowa – Bouyed by 273 rushing yards as part of a 500-yard-plus total offense output, sixth-seeded Bethel held off third-seeded Wartburg en route to a 28-20 win Nov. 20.

The visiting Royals, improving to 10-1, managed to convert key third down, and in some cases, fourth down attempts at many turns when it looked as if the home-standing Knights would force a change of possession.

"We knew Wartburg had a great defense," Bethel senior running back Logan Flannery said. "We were just able to get behind our line and make some big plays when we needed them."

The visitors quieted a good share of the crowd of 3,100 that made their way into Walston-Hoover Stadium with a seven-play, 64-yard drive off the opening kickoff for an 8-0 lead. The Knights, though, didn't relinquish their home FieldTurf easily, answering on the ensuing kickoff when junior quarterback Danny Stiefel hit senior fullback Mitch Blythe out of the backfield for an 11-yard scoring strike.

The two teams' defenses stiffened up from that point until the offenses combined for 21 second quarter points. Wartburg (10-1) held its lone lead when Stiefel broke in from a yard our early in the frame to make it 14-8. Bethel answered that scoring drive with two more of its own before halftime, as senior quarterback Josh Aakre hit two long touchdown passes to put his team up 22-14 at the break.

Coach Rick Willis' squad closed the gap midway through the third period when junior wide receiver Levi Helbling scooted around left end for a seven-yard reverse touchdown. Bethel's offense came back quickly to make it 28-20 with an early fourth quarter score and held off a late Wartburg drive that stalled on the Royals' seven-yard line midway through the final period.

Flannery led the attack for the visitors with 137 yards on the ground. Aakre threw for 198. For the Orange and Black, sophomore running back Connor Dahlstrom rushed for 71 yards, and Stiefel threw for 237. Helbling was his top target with six catches for 102 yards, nearly mirroring the effort of Bethel's Mitch Hallstrom who hauled in six for 119. Wartburg's defense received 14 tackles, including one and a half for losses, from senior Blake Suckow. Bethel's "D" was topped by eight tackles from junior defensive back David Vavra.

"I told the guys, after this game, this season has been a great accomplishment," Willis said. "We navigated through the Iowa Conference and regular season 10-0. It's no small feat considering we had to do so on the road at Coe, Central and the rest."

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