WALESKA — For the second game in a row, Reinhardt’s mental toughness was tested late, only this time, it came down to the final play of the game.
Alex Hardy’s 27-yard field in overtime lifted Reinhart to a 20-17 victory over the University of Pikeville on Saturday afternoon at Ken White Field at University Stadium. As Hardy’s kick sailed straight through the uprights the Reinhardt players rushed the field and celebrated the hard-fought victory which required players on both sides of the ball to exert themselves past regulation.
“I just love our kids,” Reinhardt head coach James Miller said after the game. “There was some real smacking going on out there today on both sides of the ball. Pikeville is a very good football team with a lot of good football in front of them, and I’m just proud of how we kept our heads down and found a way to win this one.”
After winning the coin toss in overtime, Reinhardt (2-0) elected to defend on the initial possession. The Eagles’ defense held Pikeville (0-2) to a three-and-out, and it was Reinhardt’s sophomore defensive back Laquan Scott who got a hand on Pikeville’s 48-yard field goal attempt causing the kick to fall well short. Reinhart took over at the 25 yard line with all the confidence needed to end the game on the next possession.
“I knew we were good, because we practice stuff like this,” Reinhardt’s junior quarterback Billy Hall said. “We practice these different scenarios so when we got in that situation I knew we had it.”
Hardy stayed cool under pressure as well. After missing two field goals in Reinhardt’s season opener, the redshirt freshman connected on both his field goal attempts on Saturday, and said there was no doubt in his mind when he lined up for the game-winner. Pikeville called a last-second timeout prior to the kick, but Hardy remained unfazed.
“They were just delaying the inevitable,” Hardy said. “I said I’m not missing this kick. I felt like I redeemed myself a little bit today. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be in that position to kick the game winner and run down the field with everyone swarming you. It was awesome, and it makes me want to get better.”
Reinhardt struggled offensively in the first half, and entered halftime trailing 10-3. The Eagles’ passing game seemed to open up the offense in the second half, however, as Reinhardt scored on its opening possession of the third quarter. Hall connected with Terry Berdin for a 35-yard touchdown pass and the Reinhardt sideline seemed energized by the explosive play.
Pikeville’s offense held the size advantage at nearly every position over the Reinhardt defense, but the Eagles used sound technique and effort to hold Pikeville to 174 total yards and seven points in the second half. Reinhardt stopped Pikeville twice on fourth down attempts, once inside its own 15 yard line, while sophomore defensive back Jalen Everett added an interception for a third turnover. The Eagles won the game despite Pikeville winning the time of possession battle 40:47-24:13.
Through two games, the defense certainly looks to be a strength for the blue and gold, and senior defensive end Matthew Prather said there is certainly confidence on that side of the ball.
“It’s just a mentality,” Prather said. “Our defense feels like it’s one of the best in the NAIA and one of the best in all of college football. When we take the field, we take the field to dominate. I actually like how we won this game, because you’re not gonna win every game easy. We need games like this.”
Offensively, Hall finished with 102 rushing yards and one touchdown on 15 carries while adding 126 yards and another score through the air. Junior running back Trevae Cain finished with 73 rushing yards on 11 carries and his bruising rushing style helped Reinhardt seemingly seal the win in regulation before Pikeville’s Trevon Wofford found Arites Clark on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The extra point tied the game and sent both teams into overtime.
The players for Pikeville stood motionless on the field following Hardy’s game-winning kick while the players and coaches for Reinhardt were elated in victory. Reinhardt defeated its opponents last season by an average score of 40-17, and while blowout victories are enjoyable the close wins are often a better barometer of the character of a football team.
“I actually like how we won this game today,” Prather said. “It showed us how we can come together as a team and accomplish tough things. You’re not gonna win everything easy and so we need games like this to determine what kind of team we’re going to be.”