The NAIA coaches’ poll, released Monday afternoon, featured the Eagles for the first time of their inaugural season.
Reinhardt (4-2) had a bye last week, but its past work apparently was enough to sway the voting coaches.
“That is just outstanding, isn’t it?” Eagles coach Danny Cronic said. “We didn’t set some goals, because I didn’t know enough to, but I’m happy we have been honored with that vote of confidence.”
Cronic said what’s most impressive is that his team is playing with a collection of primarily redshirt freshmen, backed up by freshmen. Not only that, but injuries have taken quite a toll on the Reinhardt roster.
“We are so young,” Cronic said. “It is equally as easy to win as it is to lose. The injuries keep me very anxious — not that we are fixing to have any more, but who we are putting in place of the injuries that we already have.”
Still, it’s hard for the veteran coach to put much stock in polls.
“It’s a nice honor,” Cronic said, “but I have to remember what coach Vince Dooley said, and he was somewhat my mentor. He said, ‘The polls create a lot of interest, but there is only one poll that matters, and that’s the one at the end of the year.’ I think that is kind of how we look at it.”
Cronic told his players about the ranking during practice Monday and said it was the talk of the locker room afterward.
“Football you play for recognition a great deal,” Cronic said. “That is one of the things. The love of the game and then the recognition that you get when you play well. So, we are excited to be ranked, especially with a first-year team.”
Reinhardt began the season 0-2 after losses to Mercer and Lindsey Wilson by a combined eight points. Since then, the Eagles have strung together four consecutive wins against Kentucky Christian, Faulkner, Bethel and Union.
Reinhardt is also 2-0 in the Mid-South Conference’s West Division, but it has two games left against teams that are currently ranked, including next week’s opponent, the No. 2-ranked University of the Cumberlands.
Also representing the Mid-South in the rankings are No. 11 Georgetown College, No. 19 Faulkner, No. 21 Lindsey Wilson and Reinhardt’s opponent in the next-to-last game of the season, No. 25 Cumberland University.