The Eagles defeated No. 23 Faulkner 28-24, in the biggest upset of the young program’s history. Not only that, but it was Reinhardt’s first win in the Mid-South Conference’s West Division.
L.J. Stegall scored three touchdowns to bring his season total to 10. His first trip to the end zone came in the first quarter, when he ran a kickoff back 95 yards to tie the score at 7-all.
Faulkner (3-1, 0-1) was able to respond by scoring a pair of touchdowns to make the score 21-7, but Reinhardt (2-2, 1-0) responded. Quarterback Ryan Thompson’s shovel pass to Stegall was taken 61 yards for another touchdown.
Stegall’s final score of the game was the decisive one as he scored on a 5-yard pass from Thompson for the 28-24 final.
Stegall now ranks first in the NAIA in all-purpose yards (844), second in total kickoff return yardage (466) and third in total points (60).
Also scoring for Reinhardt at Faulkner was Niagel Curtis, who took the opening snap of the fourth quarter 55 yards for a touchdown.
Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic said the story of the game was really the defense.
“Defensively, we played our best game,” Cronic said in a university release. “Offensively, we were able to do enough against a great defense to pull this one out. We are delighted with that win.”
Tevin McCoy led the Eagles’ defense with 9½ tackles, including a pair of sacks as Reinhardt stymied a Faulkner offense that had been averaging 52 points per game. Blake Barnes added seven tackles and a sack.
“Tevin is a good ballplayer,” Cronic said in an interview Tuesday. “Blake Barnes has some suave, too, so both of them had good ball games.”
Reinhardt was also aided by a pair of interceptions. The first came in the second quarter, when Alvarez Thompson picked off a pass in the end zone. The second came in late in the game, when Juice Arnold intercepted a pass by Josh Hollingsworth to set up a field goal.
Aside from the first quarter, when Faulkner scored 21 points, the Eagles’ defense held Faulkner to just a field goal over the final three quarters.
Reinhardt, which will host Bethel (0-4, 0-1) on Saturday at noon, lost its first two games of the season by a combined eight points before rebounding with back-to-back wins.
Cronic said the win over Faulkner is something the Eagles can build upon.
“It may be a milestone,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it. We managed to do enough. We made some mistakes, but we managed to do enough to win.”
The Eagles have performed well during the fourth quarter in each of their games. In three of the four games, they trailed entering the final period, but they rallied to either win or tie the game. The only game they led entering the fourth quarter was against Faulkner.
“One of the things is I have a doctorate in exercise and physiology, and we have a great strength coach in Alex Derenthal. He has done a great job with our fitness, and I think that is a key factor in this.
“We played a lot of different people in the skill positions, and they managed to sustain as the game went on, and the (Faulkner) defense began to wear down.”