KENNESAW — As two neighboring programs played for the first time on the football field, Mother Nature would not allow for a full game.
Making the 25-mile trip south from Waleska to Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Reinhardt lost 31-7 to Kennesaw State on Saturday. The game was halted with 5:45 left in the third quarter, and after a 49-minute delay, both coaches agreed to end the game.
For Reinhardt (3-2), the trip was an opportunity for the Eagles’ players to test themselves in a higher-level environment. For Kennesaw State (4-1), it was a chance to begin a possible future series with neighboring program.
“With two communities this close, I think it was good for a lot of people around here,” Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon said. “It was a really good crowd tonight, so I hope that had an impact. Our scheduling is challenging right now, so I think playing them again in the future is something that we could look at to see if it fits the model and if it will work.”
Playing in hot and humid conditions from the opening kickoff, Kennesaw State took control early and did not let up.
The Owls stopped Reinhardt on its opening possession and, after a short punt, promptly went 35 yards in four plays, with Kevin Ficklin running in from 22 yards for the game’s opening score. The Owls scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and connected on a 40-yard field goal on their fifth.
Conversely, Reinhardt struggled to move the ball early against an aggressive and speedy Kennesaw State defense. The Eagles punted on their first six possessions and trailed 31-0 late in the second quarter.
“They’re a really good football team, and they have a really good defense. I mean, they’re lights-out,” Reinhardt coach James Miller said. “Obviously, we struggled to move the ball on offense, but I like how we fought, and I like how we responded at the end of the second quarter.
“I told my guys I was proud of how they fought, and we came out after halftime and played well. I didn’t want to call this game at all, but there was just a big (weather) cell sitting over us. We have a lot of football still to play and I think, when you get to where you’re waiting two to three hours before you can get back out there, that’s when you pull something and that’s when you’re going to get hurt.”
Early in the game, Reinhardt made Kennesaw State work to score its points.
Trailing 7-0 and facing a first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Reinhardt held Kennesaw State on three straight plays before Owls quarterback Daniel David punched it in with a keeper on fourth down from the 1. On the following possession, Kennesaw State running nack Isaac Foster took a pitch around the right side for a 44-yard touchdown, again on fourth down.
Foster finished with six rushes for a game-high 127 yards and two touchdowns as the Owls finished with 204 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
“I had great blocking down the field,” Foster said. “The funny thing about that touchdown run was Bronson (Rechsteiner) told me before the game he had a vision that he was going to cut somebody and get up and block the safety for a touchdown run for me, and that’s exactly what he did.”
On its final possession of the first half, Reinhardt seemed to find its footing.
Starting from their own 26-yard line, the Eagles marched 74 yards in seven plays, and quarterback Billy Hall finished the drive with a weaving 21-yard touchdown run up the middle. Hall dove into the end zone past several Kennesaw State defenders as the stands on the visitor’s side burst into celebration.
It was the first touchdown scored by an NAIA team against Kennesaw State since 2015.
“We just went out there to take a shot because we had nothing to lose,” Hall said. “I told my guys to get open quick because the ball’s coming. We completed a couple, and then I was able to get in the end zone. I think we got better today, honestly, and I think it was good for us.”
Kennesaw State finished with 264 total yards, while Reinhardt had 99. The Eagles were held to just 29 rushing yards.
Hall, who was 8-for-15 passing for 70 yards, said he felt like Reinhardt was prepared now to head into conference play. The Eagles will begin their Mid-South Conference slate next week at Kentucky Christian.
Kennesaw State will be on a bye next week before beginning its Big South Conference schedule by hosting Charleston Southern on Oct. 12.