Reinhardt University’s upstart football team is celebrating the first national ranking in the program’s young history. The Eagles (4-2) were ranked No. 24 in the NAIA Coaches Poll released Monday.
Reinhardt started its season with a pair of losses — a 40-37 shootout on August 31 against Mercer University (5-1), a fellow upstart program in Georgia, and a 50-45 heartbreaker against Lindsey Wilson College (5-2) the following week during the school’s home opener. The team rebounded with four consecutive wins, including a win over a top 25 ranked program.
“The Mercer loss still hurts because that was against an in-state opponent,” Reinhardt Head Coach Danny Cronic said, according to reinhardteagles.com. “Our last time out, we didn’t play our best game by any means, but we still won. I guess I should be happy that we won, but I want us to pursue excellence every time we step on the field, whether or not we’re young or we’re beat up or whatever other adversity may be facing us.”
The team’s wins this season had been hard fought. The program notched its first victory on Sept. 24 against Kentucky Christian University.
Down 14-13, Reinhardt running back L.J. Stegall scored with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to seal a 19-14 victory.
The program evened its record the next week with a 28-24 victory over then No. 23 ranked Faulkner University as Stegall scored three touchdowns. The Eagles then defeated Bethel University (2-5) by a 41-36 score on Sept. 28 and Union College (1-5) by a 21-18 margin on Oct. 5.
Reinhardt, one of the NAIA’s three new football programs this year, voted to add football in March 2011. The Eagles, who compete in the Mid-South Conference’s Western Division, are coming off a bye week and return to action on Saturday against Belhaven University (2-4).
Reinhardt, a school of 1,350 students, is located in Waleska, Ga., about 45 miles north of Atlanta. In a 30-year career as a high school football head coach in Georgia, Cronic amassed a 222-114-1 record.
— L.J. Stegall is the team’s leading rusher with 56 carries for 352 yards and six touchdowns.
— Ryan Thompson has completed 36 of 59 passes for 482 yards and four touchdowns.
— Aaron Kennedy has hauled in 21 passes for 294 yards, good for an average of 14 yards per reception.
— Jarred Johnson has made 55 total tackles, including 43 unassisted.
— Tevin McCoy leads the defense with three sacks.