The players hit the field Monday, which is typically a day of weight-training. After solid practices leading up to Friday’s customary walkthrough, coach Danny Cronic was feeling pretty good about what he saw around him.
Cronic gave his players a few extra days off while classes were not in session for fall break, with the hope that they players would return to campus healthier. That plan seemed to work well as even the coaches seemed to benefit from some time away from campus, with many visiting their families living in other parts of the state.
Aside from linebacker Chas Pierce, a former Woodstock High School standout who injured his knee while chasing a goat on a camping trip with friends, all of the players are in better shape after the time away.
“We didn’t get all healed up, but the (injury) board looks a little bit better,” Cronic said. “It was a good break, and the fact that it coincided with school being out made it easier.”
Among the players slated to return to action for today’s homecoming game with Belhaven (2-4, 0-2 Mid-South West) include running back Niagel Curtis, reserve quarterback Ryan Thompson, defensive end Phillip LeConte, defensive tackle Blake Rushing, linebacker Tyler Martin and defensive back Juice Arnold.
Quarterback Johnathon Chamblee, who missed Reinhardt’s win over Union with a separated shoulder, could see a reserve role with former Cherokee High School standout Dylan Haynes once more expected to start.
Even Piece, who had missed the previous month with a neck injury, was able to return to practice Thursday despite his recent knee injury.
But not all is back to normal for Reinhardt (4-2, 2-0). Defensive back Jeremy Morris and offensive lineman Nick Lawson will miss the game as they await the results of MRIs. Also out are running back P.J. Greene, offensive linemen Tevin Davis and Brandon Keith and defensive back El-Malik Robeson-el.
Ranked in the NAIA coaches’ poll for the first time in their brief history, the No. 24 Eagles will host Belhaven at noon today in the university’s first traditional homecoming
A large crowd is expected at the university leading up to kickoff at Ken White Field, but Cronic hopes his players won’t fall victim to the distractions homecoming may cause.
“They need to be in their man cave, studying and focusing while the rest of the general public is festive leading up to the big game,” Cronic said. “That is what they need to get ready emotionally for the game.”
Cronic sees Belhaven as a worthy opponent.
The Blazers opened the season with a non-conference win over Texas College before losing their next four games. They got back on the winning side last week when they won 40-21 in a cross-divisional game at Bluefield.
Still, Cronic doesn’t think today’s game will be easy. Belhaven has made strides recently and has seen a few players who were injured early in the season return to health, much like Reinhardt.
Emotions, however, could also play a role for Belhaven, which is dealing with the death of running backs coach Willie Heidelberg last Sunday. The longtime assistant died of an apparent heart attack.
The Blazers will also have to counter with being the opponent on a special day on the Reinhardt campus.
“No one likes to be a homecoming opponent,” Cronic said. “They are a physical group. They have had some injuries, but they are definitely a worthy opponent.”