Reinhardt Eagles defeat SOU Raiders in NAIA Semifinals
(Courtesy: SOU Sports Information)
Southern Oregon's NAIA Championship Series run won't end in Daytona Beach this season. Instead it ended Saturday in heartbreak, after a couple overtime sessions that second-ranked Reinhardt (Ga.) survived a 37-34 winner, in a semifinal game that went from hard-fought to exhilarating to just plain unimaginable at Ken White Field.
After the teams traded touchdowns and extra points in the first round of overtime possessions, SOU settled on Marcus Montano's 27-yard field goal in the second. Facing fourth-and-1 at the Raiders' 3-yard line, the Eagles got just enough on Trevae Cain's run up the middle, and one play later Cain wiggled outside the pack and powered in the winning rush.
Reinhardt (12-0) will make its first NAIA National Championship game appearance against top-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.) – the same team that knocked the Eagles out the last two years – on Dec. 16.
The fifth-ranked Raiders, in the semifinals for the third time in four years, ended their thrill-ride season at 12-1. They'd won their previous five road games in the postseason, a feat no other team has accomplished since the playoff took on its current form in 1997.
That they extended the game to overtime at all was borderline miraculous.
SOU was out of timeouts when Reinhardt led 21-17 and had the ball with first down at midfield and just around 90 seconds left. But on second down, quarterback Billy Hall was nailed on a draw play by Sean Rogers, whose thunderous hit caused a fumble that Isiah Carter scooped up and returned 43 yards for a touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, however, Otis Odom brought his return to midfield and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty put the Eagles at SOU's 31-yard line. The sequence set up Nick Marquez's career-long, game-tying field goal that crept just over the crossbar with 40 seconds to go.
The Raiders had another chance still: After quickly going three-and-out, Jaxon Clark's punt was fumbled by Odom and recovered by Roger's at Reinhardt's 39-yard line. As time expired, Montano's 50-yard field-goal attempt for the win sailed right.
Hall, who had served as Reinhardt's backup quarterback all year, completed 15 of 21 passes for 202 yards, rushing for one touchdown and passing for two more as the Eagles ended the first half with a 21-10 lead. They were shut out in the second.
SOU faced the top defense in the nation without its starting running back, Rey Vega, and finished with 30 rushing yards on 24 attacks. Senior quarterback Tanner Trosin kept them int it, completing 33 of 55 passes for 387 yards and three scores – including a 27-yarder to Suell that knotted the score after the first round of overtime possessions.
The only offensive TD for either team in the second half was Trosin's 18-yard pass to Louis Macklin midway through the third quarter, which cut Reinhardt's lead to 21-17.
Reinhardt, which resurrected its program in 2013 after shutting it down in 1920, knocked out the Frontier champion for the second year in a row. Last year it was Montana Tech in a 27-0 quarterfinal decision.