Bethel Star Battling Through Injury, Team's 0-2 Start

Bethel's Bryce Marquardt during his team's season-opening loss to Dubuque on Sept. 2. Photo: Courtesy of Bethel Athletics
Bethel's Bryce Marquardt during his team's season-opening loss to Dubuque on Sept. 2.

September 14, 2017 07:36 PM

As Bryce Marquardt lay injured on a training table on the sideline in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week, the Bethel senior wide receiver thought his collegiate career might be at an end.

And it wasn't anywhere near the conclusion he'd envisioned.


Already back for a fifth season on a medical redshirt, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Champlin Park graduate hurt his knee early on in the Royals' 31-0 loss at Carthage last Saturday.

He said it turned out to be a hyperextension - nothing season-ending. Though he didn't know that at the time.

"It was very frustrating," said Marquardt, a two-time All-MIAC selection in both football and baseball. "I'm already back for a fifth year because I missed most of my junior season with a broken collarbone. Then I get hurt right away in the second game. That wasn't supposed to happen.

"Luckily, it didn't turn out to be anything major. But it was pretty scary right away. That isn't the way I wanted this all to end."

Not for himself or his team. A perennial factor in the MIAC race for much of the past two decades, Bethel was already coming off a pair of back-to-back 5-5 finishes.

Then there was a heartbreaking 32-26 double overtime loss to Dubuque (Iowa) in the Royals' season opener on Sept. 2, followed by last week's setback on the road at Carthage.

That leaves Bethel 0-2 heading into its MIAC opener on the road at Concordia Saturday in Moorhead. The Cobbers are coming off a 25-17 victory over perennial Division III power Wisconsin-Whitewater last week.

"This wasn't the start we were looking for, but we have to keep battling," said Marquardt, whose two touchdown catches in the season opener gave him 27 in his career, making him the school's all-time leader.

"If we give up now, there's no point in even coming out every week the rest of the way. We know we're a better team than we've shown the first two games. And we have a great chance to prove it this week."

Games to Watch: Week 3

Minnesota State-Mankato (2-0 NSIC, 2-0 overall) at Minnesota-Duluth (1-1 NSIC, 1-1 overall), 6 p.m. Saturday

The unbeaten Mavericks, ranked No. 8 in the most recent AFCA Division II national poll, are coming off a 56-19 win over Minnesota-Crookston in which sophomores Ian Pribyl and Nate Gunn each rushed for more than 100 yards.

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 20, rebounded from a season-opening loss to No. 7 Sioux Falls to defeat Upper Iowa 26-7 on the road last week. Freshman running back Austin Sylvester rushed for a touchdown and caught another.

Bethel (0-0 MIAC, 0-2 overall) at Concordia-Moorhead (0-0 MIAC, 2-0 overall), 1 p.m. Saturday

Bethel is seeking to rebound from a 31-0 setback on the road at Carthage last week. But it won't be easy. The Cobbers picked up a huge 25-17 nonconference victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater last week.

Senior safety Dallas Raftevold had a career-best 15 tackles in that game. He also had an interception, forced one fumble and recovered another.

St. John's (0-0 MIAC, 2-0 overall) at St. Olaf (0-0 MIAC, 1-1 overall), 1 p.m. Saturday

Both St. John's and St. Thomas (0-0 MIAC, 1-1 overall) are in Northfield this week in advance of their matchup at Target Field on Sept. 23. The Tommies will try to rebound from a 25-22 loss on the road at Wisconsin-Stout when they face 0-2 Carleton at 1:10 p.m.

The Johnnies - who beat NAIA Presentation 49-14 last week - will be across town facing St. Olaf, which fell 44-20 to Luther last week. The Oles could provide St. John's with perhaps a glimpse of what the Johnnies will see the following week. After all, new St. Olaf coach James Kilian was the offensive coordinator at St. Thomas the past two seasons.

Whether or not Marquardt will be able to participate remains to be seen. He planned to try and practice later this week, but his status for Saturday is questionable.

Though both he and his head coach said he will be back as soon as he's able.

"He's a fighter," said Bethel coach Steve Johnson, whose 29 seasons leading the Royals make him the MIAC's longest-tenured head coach.

"He told me he wants to be out there. He said he didn't come back to sit out a game. But we have to be smart with him too. We don't want to put him out there if he's not ready to go."

Having Marquardt in the fold does provide Bethel with a voice of experience in the offensive huddle. He's been a starter since his sophomore season in 2014.

That's important in an autumn in which the Royals are undergoing some changes. Longtime defensive coordinator Jimmy Miller left in the offseason to take over as the defensive coordinator just down the road at Northwestern (Minnesota) - the school at which he served as head coach from 1991-2000. He is now on the staff of his former defensive end Matt Moore.

In his place, the Royals added Mike McElroy, who played for former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois and served on his coaching staff with the Gophers.

"There's been changes, but I told our coaches that our best recruit over the past few years just might be Coach McElroy," Marquardt said. "He's an absolute wizard. I was so glad to see fall camp finally end this year because it was such a challenge going against his defense every day in practice."

Marquardt - a physical education major who'd like to one day get into coaching and athletic administration - followed in his family's footsteps by landing at Bethel.

Both his parents went there. So did siblings - including older brother Brandon who transferred to the school after redshirting at Minnesota State-Mankato and played four seasons at running back.

"I took the family path," Marquardt said. "I knew if I played Division III, it was most likely going to be here. I didn't want to go to St. John's or St. Thomas and divide the family by making them have to chose between going to see Brandon or going to see me.

"And it was fun because that was the first time I really got to play on the same team with my brother. He was a senior (at Champlin Park) when I was a freshman and I was still playing freshman ball then. This was the first time we got to play together. It was cool because we both did kickoff returns. And when we ran out there at home games, the PA announcer would say 'Back deep for Bethel - Marquardt and Marquardt.'"

But Brandon has graduated now. As have most of the players Marquardt grew accustomed to competing against around the conference.

"It's weird because I was looking at the Concordia roster this week and I hardly recognized any of the names," Marquardt said. "All the guys I've grown up playing against are gone. I'm the old man now."

But he's an old man who knows he still has games left to play, even if he isn't able to go this week.

"It's funny because last year after we played St. Thomas, one of their coaches came up to me and was really nice," Marquardt said. "He told me it had been great coaching against me and he was glad I was done because it was tough game-planning for me. I just smiled and said 'Actually, I'll be back one more year.'

"It's been a great opportunity to be able to return," he added. "And I want to make the most of it. I know all of our guys are going to be fighters. We have a lot of season yet to go and we're going to keep battling."


Frank Rajkowski

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