The Eagles will travel to Montgomery, Ala., tonight to face Faulkner, one of the top teams in Mid-South Conference.
In beating Webber International, Ave Maria and Union, No. 23 Faulkner (3-0) has averaged more than 50 points per game.
Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic said his staff took about 12 hours off after last weeks’ win at Kentucky Christian before beginning their planning for Faulkner. Some of Cronic’s staff may have even been working on the eight-hour bus ride home.
“We got home about 2 a.m. (Sunday), and we were in here at 2 p.m. watching video and getting ready,” Cronic said. “We have been working on it all week. This team coming up is very talented.”
Faulkner quarterback Josh Hollingsworth and tailback Demetre Baker carried much of the load as the team amassed 701 yards of offense in a 59-20 victory over Union in their Mid-South opener. With 275 passing yards and five touchdowns, the game was one of the biggest in Hollingsworth’s All-American career. Baker scored on runs of 71 and 53 yards in a 21-point second half.
Reinhardt offensive coordinator Drew Cronic is quite familiar with Hollingsworth, having coached the quarterback when they both were at Furman University. Cronic, then an assistant to Furman coach Bobby Lamb, left to take his current position at Reinhardt, while Hollingsworth transferred to Faulkner when Lamb resigned.
“He’s extremely athletic with a quick release,” Drew Cronic said of Hollingsworth. “He’s very smart. He’s pretty good. He has thrown for a lot of yards for (Faulkner).”
Still, Cronic said there is no advantage being familiar with Hollingsworth since he’s now playing in a different system.
The Faulkner defense is just as tough. Mitchell Hoskins, Dennis Thames, Kenny Beck and Andrew Mahan are among the leading members of the defense. Mahan leads the conference in sacks.
“They can run and they are big,” Drew Cronic said. “That’s a pretty good combination. They are fairly well-coached, too. A lot of coaches and a lot of student-assistants, too.”
Danny Cronic attributed much of the Faulkner’s success to the amount of experience many of its players have.
“They have a lot of junior college transfers,” he said. “Their school is three times our size or more. They recruit kids from all over.”
Faulkner has several players from California and Florida, which indicates the program has money to spend on recruiting. But however big the challenge that Faulkner presents, the biggest challenge for Reinhardt may be overcoming its own injuries. While still awaiting the results of an MRI, Cronic fears that one player, tight end Bolden Davis, may have suffered a season-ending injury in practice.
While NAIA rules permit Reinhardt to add a player to its roster to replace Davis, the team will still feel the loss. Among those slated to step up is former Woodstock High School standout Shane McCleskey.
Meanwhile, sophomore running back P.J. Greene was scheduled to see a doctor Thursday. He suffered an injury in the team’s season-opening series at Mercer and hasn’t played since.
Cronic said that if Greene is available, it would be on a limited basis.
“We have more injuries at this point than fewer,” Cronic said. “The wing backs, we are having some trouble. We have even put one of the quarterbacks (Dylan Haynes) at the position. We moved another kid, Raequan Bond to the position from (defensive end).”
Cronic said shoulder injuries have been the most common problem for the Eagles.
Linebacker A.J. Thomas also has an outside chance of returning from an injury, but fellow linebacker Chas Pierce, a former Woodstock High standout, remains doubtful.
“If anything, we are a little worse off in the injury department right now,” Cronic said. “Some of them have been hurt in games. Some of them got hurt in practice. Some of them were hurt in the scrimmage Monday for the guys that didn’t play on Saturday. We moved (Chris) Gaines to fullback, and he rolled an ankle. That all affects our depth. We aren’t there yet. We aren’t a seasoned team or we would be protecting folks rather than still trying to condition them and teach them.”