Waleska, GA — In a thrilling NAIA semifinal matchup, the Reinhardt Eagles punched their ticket to the national championship for the first time in program history with a 37-34 double-overtime victory over the Southern Oregon Raiders. The Eagles’ victory makes them the first club from the Mid-South Conference to reach the title game since Cumberlands (Ky.) in 2013.
Reinhardt, in only its fifth season as a varsity program, improved its all-time record in the NAIA FCS semifinals to 1-1. On the other hand, Southern Oregon now holds a 2-1 all-time record in the FCS semifinals. The game also marked the first semifinal matchup to require at least one extra period since the 2013 season.
Freshman quarterback Billy Hall led the way for Reinhardt, throwing for 202 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 44 yards and one score in his first career start. Hall’s performance was instrumental in securing the historic victory for the Eagles.
Kicker Nick Marquez emerged as one of the heroes of the day, connecting on a career-long 48-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Marquez’s clutch kick was 12 yards longer than his previous career-best, and it proved to be a crucial moment in Reinhardt’s journey to the national championship.
Meanwhile, Southern Oregon’s Tanner Trosin displayed his quarterback prowess, throwing for an impressive 387 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Trosin’s outstanding performance wasn’t enough to push the Raiders past the resilient Eagles.
The game started with a back-and-forth battle in the first quarter. Southern Oregon’s Marcus Montano kicked a 31-yard field goal to put the Raiders on the board first. However, Reinhardt quickly responded with two touchdowns, including a 26-yard run by Billy Hall and a 29-yard pass from Hall to R. Chambliss. The Raiders closed the gap with a 96-yard touchdown pass from Trosin to Matt Boudreaux, making it a 14-10 game at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Reinhardt extended their lead with another touchdown pass from Hall to Chambliss, giving them a 21-10 advantage heading into halftime.
Southern Oregon came out strong in the third quarter, with Trosin connecting with Louis Macklin for an 18-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to four points. The Raiders continued their comeback in the fourth quarter when Isiah Carter recovered a fumble in the end zone, putting Southern Oregon ahead 24-21. However, Marquez once again came through for Reinhardt, drilling a 48-yard field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime period, with Reinhardt’s Trevae Cain finding the end zone twice and Southern Oregon’s Jordan Suell catching a 27-yard touchdown pass from Trosin. In the second overtime, Southern Oregon settled for a field goal, giving them a 34-31 lead. However, Reinhardt responded with another touchdown run from Cain, securing their spot in the national championship with a 37-34 victory.
Reinhardt’s win sets up an exciting title game against an opponent yet to be determined. The Eagles will be looking to make history once again and claim their first-ever NAIA national championship.
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports