A redshirt freshman from Hazlehurst, Stegall hadn’t played a down in nearly two years when he took the field for Reinhardt in Saturday’s inaugural game at Mercer.
The running back showed no rust as he cut through the Bears’ defense for three touchdowns to become not only the first Eagle to score, but the first to score multiple times and in multiple ways.
Stegall’s first score of the night came in the first quarter, when he caught a 3-yard pass from Johnathon Chamblee. His second came less than 2 minutes later, when he ran back a kickoff 92 yards. Finally, Stegall capped his performance with a 3-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Though Reinhardt eventually lost 40-37 to its fellow first-year program, Stegall said it felt good to be back in the end zone. In fact, that was all he was thinking about during the game.
“I was trying to make a statement,” he said. “I wanted to make a name for myself and maybe put Reinhardt on the map.”
Stegall said the kickoff return for a touchdown was the most memorable of the three trips to the end zone.
“It was my first-ever college kick return, and it was the first-ever kick return for Reinhardt,” he said. “When I cut back and broke that arm tackle, I knew (I would score).”
All told, Stegall had four kickoff returns for 163 yards, nine carries for 26 yards and two catches for 4 yards.
He said it feels good to know that his name will forever be in Reinhardt history.
“Every time I look back, I know my name will be there,” he said.
While Stegall still wants to make a statement for the Eagles, he is hoping that it comes along with a win this weekend, in Reinhardt’s home opener against Lindsey Wilson.
“I want to keep up with what I’m doing,” he said. “Maybe I can run another one back for a touchdown. I want to win the first home game in Reinhardt football history.”
LOCAL UPDATES: While not many players from Cherokee County saw action in Saturday’s loss at Mercer, Vashaun Washington and Chas Pierce were both able to make an impact.
Washington, an Etowah product, made a couple of key tackles late in the first half and finished with three tackles. Perhaps his biggest play of the game came at the close of the first half when he recovered a Mercer fumble.
Pierce, a former Woodstock standout, got the start a linebacker. He recorded three solo tackles, including a sack for a 5-yard loss, and assisted on two more.
Tunde Ayinla, a former Cherokee High School standout now at Mercer, faced off against Reinhardt. He recorded one tackle.
NO HUDDLE: Both Reinhardt and Mercer were in a hurry. Neither worked from the huddle at all during the game.
Despite the hurry-up offenses, the game still lasted 3 hours, 18 minutes, due largely to the number of penalties called. Both teams ran the ball 46 times. Reinhardt attempted 25 passes, while Mercer one-upped the Eagles with 26 pass attempts.
PENALTIES: Reinhardt committed eight penalties for 76 yards, but the most costly ones gave the Bears a first down.
This happened on five occasions.
“I really think that was significant,” Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic said. “Well, we will try to go better. A lot of it was lack of experience and experience is a good teacher.”