Reinhardt Advances to the National Championship Game
#2 Reinhardt University Eagles (12-0) vs. #1 University of St. Francis Cougars (13-0)
Municipal Stadium, Daytona Beach, FL (Kickoff at 6:00pm on Saturday, December 16, 2017)
By Mary Ruth Wheeler, Megan Monroe, and Dani Cutlip
Reinhardt Wins in Double Overtime
The Reinhardt University Eagles made program history on Saturday, December 2, as they clinched their spot in the 62nd annual NAIA Football National Championship Game by defeating Southern Oregon 37-34 in 2OT. The Eagles came to the field with energy on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game. They would respond to Southern Oregon’s aggressive play and mobility by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter of regulation, thanks to a new face on the field. Freshman quarterback Billy Hall had his first career start during this game, and responded accordingly. His hard work and preparation for this moment shined through as he ran a 26-yard touchdown and shortly after, threw a 29-yard pass to Ronnie Chambliss for the second touchdown in the quarter.
The Southern Oregon Raiders responded strongly after they fell behind 14-3 to the Eagles with a 96-yard touchdown by Tanner Trosin. The Raiders thought they were holding the Eagles at 14 points going into the locker room, but they were wrong. Billy Hall and Ronnie Chambliss connected one last time for the half, as Chambliss ran 28 yards to get his second touchdown of the game. The Eagles were up going into the second half, 21-10.
Neither team did much on the scoreboard, right after coming out of the locker rooms. The Raiders held the Eagles to a scoreless third quarter with their determined, strong defense. Reinhardt let their guard down and allowed Southern Oregon’s quarterback to connect on an 18-yard pass that resulted in a touchdown. The Raiders were only down 21-17 going into the final quarter.
With less than five minutes left in the game, Reinhardt was looking to clinch their ticket to the championship game by running the clock out. Things did not go in their favor, as Hall was sacked and fumbled the ball, which resulted in another Raiders touchdown. Instead of dropping their heads, Reinhardt kept pushing. Otis Odom returned the kick 50 yards to Raider territory. When the Eagles were unable to get past the 31 yard line, they turned to kicker Nick Marquez. Marquez handled the pressure in the best way possible, and made his 48-yard kick. After Southern Oregon missed a possible game winning 50-yard field goal, Trevae Cain, of the Eagles, made it to the end zone to score in the first overtime. Trosin of the Raiders connected on a pass to his receiver which resulted in a Southern Oregon touchdown. The score was now 31-31 and sent them into a second overtime.
The Raiders scored three points off of a field goal, to push them up 34-31. Reinhardt University head coach, James Miller, trusted his offense and allowed them to play for their ticket to the championship game. Trevae Cain earned a first down and immediately after, dove to end zone from two yards out, sending Reinhardt University to their first ever national championship game.
Coach Miller of RU says that the defense was a huge part of the game by making stops when they needed to be made, and making plays whenever they were down. Cain was the offensive player of the game for the Eagles, rushing 103 yards with two touchdowns on twenty two carries. The coaches also gave a lot of praise to freshman Billy Hall who went 44 yards and scored a touchdown in his debut game. He was waiting for his number to be called all season, and his preparation really helped the Eagles out. Javier Dyer was the defensive player of the game with eight stops, a sack, and a pass breakup.
As far as stats go, the Eagles ran for 248 yards with 450 yards of offense, although the Raiders outdid them with 467 offensive yards. Reinhardt had 26 first downs, 202 passing yards, went 13-122 penalty yards, went 10-18 third downs, went 1-2 fourth downs, and had possession of the ball for 29:33 of the game. Southern Oregon had 20 first downs, 387 passing yards, went 8-78 penalty yards, went 7-19 third downs, went 1-3 fourth downs, and had possession of the ball for 24:46 of the game.
National Championship Match-Up
The Eagles of Reinhardt University will be facing known rival, the University of Saint Francis Cougars in the NAIA National Championship Game on December 16, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The two teams have seen each other before in previous seasons. During the 2016 football season, St. Francis defeated Reinhardt in the semifinals 42-24. The Cougars went on to win the NAIA National Championship that year and are no doubt, back for another title. With that being said, the Eagles are ready to get their revenge on the St. Francis Cougars.
The game should definitely be a thriller, as it worked out that both the number one and number two teams in the NAIA advanced through the playoffs to make it to the championship game. The neutral site will force the teams to bring their own energy, as they will not have their home fans there cheering them on at their own stadiums. The humidity and heat in Daytona will also be a big change for both of the teams. Reinhardt has both a consistent and strong offense and defense, much like St. Francis. So far this season, the Eagles have scored 556 points and given up 229 points to their opponents in twelve games. The Cougars have posted 587 points and given up 228 points to their opponents in thirteen games.
In order for Reinhardt to defeat the defending national champions, they will have to be on their a-game. The quarterbacks will definitely have to take control of the offense and make sure players such as Trevae Cain, Tevin McCoy, Qua Stocks, Andy Whisenant, and Stanlee Logue are completely aware of the routes that need to be run and the execution that is expected of them. That being said, Javier Dyer has had a key role in the defense for the Eagles, and will need to step up and lead them in that aspect of the game. The Eagles will be facing a team that is evenly matched with them and will need to be mentally prepared for the adversity it will bring.
St. Francis’ Justin Green, Zach Gegner, Sean Boswell, Dan Ricksy, and senior quarterback Nick Ferrer seem to be the key offensive players for the Cougars that should be in the Eagles scouting report. As far as the defense goes, the Eagles should be prepared to face Marcus Stepp, Eric Dunten, Eric Hemmelgarn, Piercen Harnish, Spencer Cowherd, and Stan Jackson. Justin Green, Marcus Stepp, and Nick Ferrer have all been named player of the game multiple times throughout the season.
St. Francis is going to be coming into the game with the knowledge of what it feels like to be in a championship game, unlike Reinhardt. They will either enter cocky and overly confident, or they will show up with a clean mindset, seeing it as a brand new “season” with one goal in mind: to win. If Reinhardt can put together the proper scouting report, train these next two weeks to prepare specifically for what they will be facing, and stay mentally strong and focused, great things will happen.
We believe that Reinhardt will be the 2017 NAIA Football National Champions. We predict that the Cougars of St. Francis will come out, guns blazing, and Reinhardt will have to respond to that adversity. The semi-final game against Southern Oregon should have prepared the team and coaching staff for what it is like to be neck and neck with a team for the entire duration of the game. Since the Eagles won that game, they know what it is like to finish what they want to accomplish. We believe that St. Francis will show up to the game with big heads and cocky since they are the reigning champions. Reinhardt will have to use new plays in order to get through St. Francis’ defensive line, but it will work in the long run. Reinhardt’s defense will also have to step up to the plate and continue to make those key stops during the game. So far this season, the coaching staff has made the right decisions of what plays to run, who to have on the field, etc. so we have no doubt that this game will be any different. The Eagles need to know that the Cougars will be training just as hard as they are, and will need to use that as motivation over these next two weeks.
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12/16/2017 University of St. Francis @ Daytona Beach, FL 6:00pm