Following a double-overtime barnburner in the national semifinals, the Reinhardt University football team stamped its ticket to the 62nd Annual NAIA Football National Championship on Saturday.
The Eagles knocked off Southern Oregon in a 37-34 nail-biter at University Stadium in Waleska to improve to 12-0 on the 2017 campaign and set up a date with the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) for the national title on Saturday, Dec. 16, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Just in its fifth season as a program, Reinhardt has enjoyed a meteoric rise at the NAIA level, and the Eagles feature quite the local flavor of former star athletes hailing from in and around the Carroll County area.
Leading the charge for the Eagle defense is former Times-Georgian All-Area Defensive Player of the Year and Carrollton High School alum Tevin McCoy, who has a team-best nine sacks and 17 tackles for a loss this season. The junior defensive end also has two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Fellow Carrollton product Gordon Dudley is also a tight end for the Eagles.
Along with the two Trojans, Reinhardt also has three former Mount Zion stars in offensive lineman Will Sizemore, quarterback Jordan Akin and tailback Jace Jordan.
Jordan is making the most of his freshman season in Waleska, rushing for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries, while hauling in five receptions for 78 yards, including a 37-yard reception in Saturday's win.
Central graduate and offensive lineman Cole Glommen, along with three Bremen products — cornerback Wade O'Neal, offensive lineman Brody Strickland and place-kicker Matthew Reese — round out the local contingent.
Additionally, defensive assistant Larry Prather spent three seasons as the head coach at Central from 1974-76.
Reinhardt reached the national championship game by knocking off Concordia (Mich.) in its playoff opener in a 39-10 decision, followed by a 17-10 victory over Georgetown College (Ky.) leading up to Saturday's double-overtime affair with the Raiders.
Saint Francis (13-0) defeated Morningside (Iowa) in a 43-36 semifinal decision to reserve its spot in Daytona Beach next week.