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Seniors step up, Football outlasts No. 9 Bethel for MIAC title share

Seniors step up, Football outlasts No. 9 Bethel for MIAC title share

Senior Josh Parks' 168 rushing yards on 33 carries helped No. 17-ranked St. Thomas Football earn a conference championship share and post another eight-win season with a hard-fought 17-7 win over No. 9-ranked Bethel Saturday at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.

The Senior Day victory -- their 27th in a row in the regular season at Palmer Field -- let the Tommies (8-2 overall, 7-1 MIAC) take their seventh outright or shared MIAC title over the last 10 seasons. They join a select group of Division III teams with 11 consecutive seasons with eight or more victories.

 

Coach Glenn Caruso's team will await Sunday's late-afternoon NCAA playoff field announcement and see if there's any path to one of the five national at-large bids.

Parks started the game 64 yards shy of Ben Wartman's school record of 4,076 rushing yards after recently breaking Wartman's record for career touchdowns. Parks passed 65 yards early in the second half, then posted his 22nd career 100-yard game. His longest rush of the day was 16 yards, and he didn't score, but he helped the Tommies crank out 25 first downs on a day when their starting QB and one starting offensive lineman were knocked out with injuries. 

Two other seniors had big plays on offense. Senior Ronnie Jones came off the bench to replace injured Tommy Dolan and rushed for 41 yards and passed for 66 yards over three quarters. Senior WR Vinny Pallini tried just his sixth career field goal and drilled a 32 yarder into the wind with 5:39 left to push the lead to 17-7, his third career make.

St. Thomas' senior-led defense had three takeaways, a blocked punt, one key sack and limited Bethel to 11 first downs and 244 yards of offense. Alex Taylor had a second-quarter interception and a fourth-quarter forced fumble. Jack Foley had a sack and a fumble recovery. Nick Raddatz had an intercpetion that preceded a short TD drive. Jake LeVahn blocked a punt by Bethel QB Jaran Roste on 4th-and-8 to set up the Tommies at their own 46 yard line.

Max Janes had a sack, a pass breakup and 11 tackles for the Royals. Cale Ferrin added eight tackles, a forced fumble and two break-ups. Joel Koenecke had a 62-yard kickoff return in the second quarter to set up Bethel's only touchdown. Roste closed with 199 yards of passing (155 yards) and rushing (44) and one TD throw.