SJU, Bethel, Martin Luther Make Division III Playoffs

SJU, Bethel, Martin Luther Make Division III Playoffs Photo: KSTP

November 12, 2018 12:03 AM

It's been a Cinderella season at Martin Luther College in New Ulm.

The Knights were picked sixth in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference preseason coaches' poll and are just two years removed from an 0-10 season in 2016.


But Martin Luther has certainly exceeded expectations, finishing 8-0 in conference play, 9-1 overall and earning the UMAC's automatic bid to the Division III playoffs.

The Knights' reward? A trip to Collegeville to face national power St. John's.

The 32-team playoff pairings were released late Sunday afternoon. And Martin Luther drew the MIAC champion Johnnies, who finished the regular season 10-0 and are ranked No. 3 in the nation.

The game is scheduled to kick off at noon Saturday at Clemens Stadium. The winner will face the winner between Whitworth (9-0) and Claremont-Mudd Scripps (7-3) in the second round.

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St. John's ended the regular season with a 62-23 nonconference win over Thomas More (Kentucky) Saturday afternoon. Junior quarterback Jackson Erdmann threw for a school-record seven touchdowns in the victory at a snowy Clemens Stadium.

On the season, the Rosemount High School graduate has thrown for 2,438 yards and 34 touchdowns for the Johnnies, who are averaging 47 points per game.

The Knights are led by sophomore running back Austin DeNoyer, who rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-18 win over Crown to close the regular season Saturday. He has rushed for 1,021 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

Senior wide receiver Josh Arndt, a St. Croix Lutheran graduate, has 32 catches for 843 yards and nine touchdowns.

Martin Luther's only loss was a 32-20 setback to Gustavus in the season opener on Sept. 1. The Johnnies beat the Gusties 45-13 two weeks later.

Meanwhile, after knocking off St. Thomas 21-15 Saturday in Arden Hills, Bethel (9-1) is back in the Division III playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Royals earned one of five at-large berths available to the field and will play host to American Rivers Conference champion Wartburg (Iowa) (8-2) at noon Saturday.

The winner will face the winner between North Central (9-1) and Hanover (7-3) in the second round.

The Royals are led by quarterback Jaran Roste, who redshirted at Minnesota last fall before transferring to Bethel. He has thrown for 1,394 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 748 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had a 93-yard touchdown run Saturday against the Tommies, who had been ranked No. 9 in the nation in last week's Division III poll.

St. Thomas, which finished the regular season 8-2, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

In Division II, Minnesota State-Mankato (11-0) and Minnesota-Duluth (11-0) both made the postseason field. The Mavericks received the top seed in Super Region 4 and a first-round bye. They will play host to the winner between No. 4 Colorado School of Mines (10-1) and No. 5 Colorado State-Pueblo (10-1) in round two on Nov. 24. 

The third-seeded Bulldogs play host to defending national champion Texas A&M Commerce (9-2), the No. 6 seed, in the first round at 1 p.m. Saturday. 

The winner of that game gets the winner between No. 2 Tarleton State (10-0) and No. 7 Azusa Pacific (8-2).

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Frank Rajkowski

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