Bethel football kicks off 75th season with tough early slate

Bethel football prepares for tough tests early in 2023 season

Expectations are high for the Bethel Royals coming off one of the most successful years in the program’s history as they kick off their 75th season.

Click the video box on this page to watch KSTP Sports’ preseason interviews with Bethel Football head coach Steve Johnson and players Joey Kidder, Devin Williams, Jacob Holmen and Evan Ginter

The 16th-ranked Royals open at home Saturday against #3-ranked Wartburg then, travel to face 4th-ranked St. John’s for the third game of the season. A trip to face Wisconsin-Eau Claire lies between the two top-five clashes.

RELATED: Current Division III Football Poll (

Dating back to last season, Saturday’s game against Wartburg will be a fifth straight game against a ranked opponent – with four of them being in the top five.

The Royals went 10-3 last season and ran all the way to the D3 Elite Eight. They were 7-1 in MIAC play, with the only loss coming to St John’s in the conference championship. They made their 11th appearance in the NCAA D-III playoffs, and first back-to-back appearances since 2013.

The Royals come into the new season without quarterback Jaran Roste on the roster for the first time since 2017. Senior George Bolt (Grand Rapids, MI) is the heir-apparent, with Roste still present as a graduate assistant before he departs later this fall to play in Europe.

Bolt’s primary targets this season are returning All-American Joey Kidder (New Richmond) and Micah Niewald (Fridley), who combined to be the only WR duo in D-III last year to each clear 1,000 receiving yards.

This is also Steve Johnson’s 35th season the Royals head coach. He is the active wins leader among D-III coaches and his 244 wins rank 15th all-time.