Another road night game awaits Reinhardt when it travels to Bluefield this weekend.
It will be the Eagles’ (5-1, 2-0 Mid-South Appalachian Division) third straight night game and fourth of the season, but coach James Miller said he thinks those challenges are preparing his team for a deep run.
"That's been tough on us, but I think it's been good for us,” he said. “I think it prepares you. We have to come ready to go and be mentally locked in. It's a big game in that atmosphere.”
Though Reinhardt has won its last two night games, there has been reason for concern.
From 2014-17 the Eagles were held below 30 points in a regular season game just three times.
They have already matched that number three times this season – in their three previous night games.
"We're not executing to the standard I would like,” Miller said. “I think against Cumberlands we played well besides a couple things, but this past game, I didn't think we played our best football game. We turned the ball over. We were sloppy. We weren't on the same page. It wasn't what we've been coached to do. Our guys have to understand we're going to get everybody's best shot every single week. I think we're struggling with that a little bit right now.”
Things could be complicated even further by last week’s injury to quarterback Billy Hall, who was seen with his arm in a sling.
Miller said it was just a deep bruise on his non-throwing shoulder, and hall could return this week. However, Hillgrove product Hunter Arters has been getting starter’s reps in practice.
Arters may not have the arm strength or speed of Hall, but he did score a rushing touchdown last week, and Miller said he has his own strengths.
“He has a lot of moxie about him,” Miller said of Arters. “He brings a different element than Billy. He's more vocal and aggressive and assertive in how he handles the offense. Hunter has the ability to just make plays when he's in there. We have confidence in him to get the job done.”
Both quarterbacks will likely play as the Eagles take on a defense coming off its first shutout of the season, led by linebackers Michael Everett and DaMarcus Wimbush, who have combined for 113 tackles.
Outside of the linebackers, which Miller called the best unit on the team, the Rams (3-3) are young defensively, but their aggressiveness has led to five interceptions, three blocked kicks and eight forced fumbles in six games.
"They're young, but they play extremely hard,” Miller said. “They do a really good job preparing them. They're not as old up front, but they do a good job giving you multiple looks. You have to prepare for that.”
Bluefield is also young up front offensively, giving Reinhardt’s defense, which ranks in the top-10 nationally in sacks, rushing yards allowed, defensive pass efficiency and scoring defense, a chance to take advantage.
Rather than throw different fronts and exotic blitzes at the young group, Miller said he is counting on his players to beat them individually.
“We want to give them different fronts and coverages,” Miller said. “It’s not really what we do, though. We have to be physical on both sides of the ball. We have to play good, sound fundamental football -- staying in our gaps, knowing who we're responsible for and running to the football.”