Reusse: Bethel was willing to wait on basketball guard to finish D-III football run

Zach Filzen was coaching men's basketball at Lawrence University when the job at Bethel opened in mid-August 2021. Filzen was named as the replacement for veteran coach Doug Novak on Sept. 7.

Four days later, Bethel opened its home football season with a 28-7 victory over Wisconsin-Platteville. One of Filzen's projected starters, Joey Kidder, caught five passes for 89 yards — including a couple of big ones in a fourth-quarter drive that put Bethel in control.

"You get the job as the basketball coach here, you know right away you're not going to have Joey at the start of the season,'' Filzen said. "We have outstanding football here, so it's just a question of how long you're going to be without him.''

A year ago, Bethel made the Division III football playoffs with an at-large bid, and was overwhelmed 61-35 in a first-round game at Central (Iowa).

Kidder caught eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns in that playoff loss on Nov. 20. A week later, he played eight minutes in Bethel's fifth basketball game of the season and was back in the starting lineup after that.

This time, Filzen has been required to show more patience as he waited for Kidder. And along with all other Bethel-ites, he was hoping the wait would be even longer.

"It hurts us not having Joey, but you're still hoping that they can keep this already great run going in football,'' Filzen said Friday.

There were long moments on Saturday in Belton, Texas. it appeared that would be the case for the football Royals. They had won on the road against Wheaton, Ill. and then had dominated perennial power Linfield in McMinnville, Ore.

Kidder caught three touchdown passes from Jaran Roste in that 30-13 drubbing, including a 65-yarder that clinched things in the fourth quarter.

That win sent Bethel back on the road for the quarterfinals and an enormous test:

Mary Hardin-Baylor, with titles in 2021 and 2018, and another vacated for rules violations as it was arriving as a D-III powerhouse in 2016.

Bethel had MHB's infamous speed contained and was putting long drives of its own together into the fourth quarter. Kidder went over defenders for a second touchdown from Roste to give the Royals a 28-17 lead with 14:11 left.

And then Bethel gave up a one-play possession — a 65-yard touchdown on a short throw to the lightning that is K.J. Miller — and that turned everything toward the explosive home team.

Final: Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, Bethel 28.

Kidder caught eight passes for 99 yards and two TDs. Total his four playoff games — including Central a year ago — and he has 26 catches for 382 yards and nine touchdowns.

He has two football seasons left at Bethel, but the Royals will be breaking in a new quarterback. Roste, once a walk-on with the Gophers, has flung his last college pass.

"He's a stud as a quarterback, talented, knows what he's doing,'' Kidder said. "Always fun to be around. It was great that he decided to come back and use that COVID year of eligibility.''

Kidder is listed as a junior for basketball, but he also has a COVID season and figures to use that. He was a three-sport athlete in high school at New Richmond, Wis., until not playing baseball as a senior.

"I was one of those kids where my favorite sport was the one that was in season,'' Kidder said. "It was important to me to go to a college where I could play football and basketball.

"The only place other than Bethel to offer me that chance was [Wisconsin-] River Falls. And both my older siblings went to Bethel, so I was familiar with this place for a long time.''

Kidder might take a few days off — perhaps practicing late in the week and making a token appearance at guard in next Saturday's home basketball game against Macalester.

"Football shape and basketball shape are different things,'' Kidder said. "Football, I'm always lifting, maintaining strength. Basketball, it's more about movement. I'll definitely be losing some weight in basketball season.''

Filzen's Royals managed an 81-77 win over Concordia (Moorhead) on Saturday. That put them at 2-5 overall, 1-2 in the MIAC, and the sooner the better to have Kidder, the coach said.

"Scoring big isn't Joey's main asset,'' Filzen said. "He's our glue; he gives us our edge. He's our Draymond Green.''

You mean whacko, coach?

"Not that part,'' Filzen said. "I mean, physical. He competes for everything, and that carries over to the entire team.''