Lindsey Wilson led 50-24 at the end of the third quarter, but the Eagles (0-2) responded with 21 unanswered points.
Reinhardt first chipped into the lead with a 1-yard run by Deonte Dennis with 12:19 left in the game. Matthew Moon, perfect on point-after attempts Saturday, made the kick to cut the deficit to 50-31.
Once again Reinhardt relied on a hurry-up offense. The success of the plan was evident late in the game as the Blue Raider players began to tire and, in some cases, collapse on the field with cramps.
A little more than 3 minutes later, the Eagles were back in the end zone, thanks in part to a fumble by the Blue Raiders (2-0). This time, it was L.J. Stegall, who won the hearts of many Reinhardt fans last week with three touchdowns against Mercer, toting the ball 5 yards for the touchdown.
That brought the Eagles’ deficit to 50-38, the first time they had been within two touchdowns since the first half
And they weren’t finished.
After forcing Lindsey Wilson to punt away on its next possession, Reinhardt went to work once more. Using eight plays to travel 70 yards, the Eagles capped their drive with a 27-yard pass from Ryan Thompson to Sam Jones. After the kick, Reinhardt trailed by just five, 50-45, with 3:51 in the game, but it was unable to get the ball back before the Blue Raiders converted a game-clinching first down.
After leading early in the first quarter, Reinhardt fell behind and trailed by double digits for most of the game.
It took a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, when Niagel Curtis ran for a 5-yard touchdown, but Lindsey Wilson responded with a pair of touchdowns in a little less than 2 minutes by recovering an onside kick. Branden Cresap put the ball in the air, first for 25 yards to Cortez Barber and then for 32 yards to Chris Dobbins, as the Blue Raiders quickly jumped ahead 17-7 at the end of the first.
Moon added a 33-yard field goal for the Eagles to start the second quarter, but it was all about the Blue Raiders after that. Dakota Brown ran for two touchdowns before Reinhardt finally answered with a 38-yard pass from Johnathan Chamblee to Stegall make the score 31-17 at halftime.
Lindsey Wilson added three more touchdowns in the third quarter.
The first game in the form an 8-yard pass from Cresap to Matt Powers. Then, just 14 seconds later, the Blue Raiders were back in the end zone as Reinhardt fumbled on the kickoff return and Barber returned it 15 yards for the score.
Stegall kept the Reinhardt fans in the game with a 46-yard touchdown run before Lindsey Wilson scored what would be its final touchdown of the day with a 49-yard pass from Cresap to Rome Cotton.
Reinhardt has lost consecutive games by less than a touchdown, which coach Danny Cronic sees as both a positive and a negative. Obviously, the negative is that the Eagles have been on the losing end, but Cronic is encouraged that his young team isn’t giving up when they are down.
“We have got to hold onto the ball,” Cronic said. “That has to do with youth and that has to do with kids not getting enough practice time. We have to find a way to help them over come that. The biggest thing is making sure they don’t go in the tank.”
While penalties weren’t as big of an issue Saturday, as it was against Mercer, Reinhardt’s inexperience showed in other ways. It fumbled the ball four times, losing possession in three of those instances. The Eagles also struggled to get off the field defensively on third down, and the Blue Raiders were able to convert on fourth down twice.
“We have got to get off the field on third downs,” Cronic said. “That was significant. We have to cover kickoffs signicantly better. (Lindsey Wilson was) getting good field possession, and that affects play-calling. You have a lot more options at midfield than you do when you are at one end.”
Still, there were positives.
Reinhardt outgained Lindsey Wilson 582-571, had more first downs (28-26), completed a high percentage of its passes (17-for-22) and converted on each of its red-zone scoring opportunities (4-for-4).
Stegall led Reinhardt with 10 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for another 45 yards and score. Through two games, Stegall has six touchdowns for the Eagles.
Cresap was 26-for-37 through the air, passing for 417 yards. Twelve different players were recipients of his passes, including Cotton, who caught three passes for 70 yards to go along with his team-high 97 rushing yards on 15 carries.