At the beginning of the season, coach Danny Cronic admitted that while hopes were high, and expectations were not.
Some wondered if the Eagles would be able to win at all during their first season. After losing their first two games of the season, the coaches and players began talking about how much they would have to do in order for the season to be considered a success.
Then Reinhardt started winning.
First it was at Kentucky Christian, then an upset at Faulkner. The Eagles returned to Ken White Field the following week, beating Bethel, and another victory at Union opened the month of October before the winning streak was pushed to five with a homecoming win over Belhaven.
Reinhardt began to climb in the NAIA coaches’ poll, and players, coaches and fans alike began to think of all the possibilities. Suddenly, hopes were high for the Eagles.
Reinhardt led the then-No. 2 team in the country, the University of the Cumberlands, by nearly three touchdowns late in an Oct. 26 game and the crowd in Waleska was thinking upset.
Then, it all slipped away.
Cumberlands rallied to win 28-24. After a week off, Reinhardt then lost to Cumberland University, 40-28 — likely dashing its hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Cronic said it’s time to evaluate the expectations as Reinhardt preferred for its final game of the regular season, today at Campbellsville (Ky.).
“Right now, we have had raised expectations,” Cronic said. “At the beginning, anything we did was outstanding. Now, if we don’t finish it off, we aren’t very good. There is a difference now, but you know what, that’s a good thing. That means we are better.”
Along with the increased expectations, Cronic saw his players tighten up on the field. He points to the increase in balls dropped by receivers.
“We haven’t played quite so loose,” Cronic said. “We have played a little protective. We haven’t been trying for that to happen, but it has a little bit. At the beginning of the season, we weren’t so concerned about making a little mistake. It’s a little different set of pressures that go along with it.”
Cronic said the Eagles played like they had nothing to lose at the beginning of the season. No one expected anything of them.
“Then they realized they had something to lose,” he said.
Reinhardt (5-4, 3-1 Mid-South West) does still have something to earn. If it can beat Campbellsville, it would have a winning record and the division title.
For the Eagles to win the West, they will have to do so without one of their top defenders. Defensive end Tevin McCoy was ejected last week after throwing a punch in retaliation after having his helmet ripped off in the first quarter.
According to Mid-South rules, McCoy must sit out today’s game.
Reinhardt appealed the suspension, but it was denied.
Cronic, who thought it was unfair that McCoy would miss the game of the season after reacting poorly under pressure, said the Eagles will have to shift some things around to compensate for the lack of pass-rushing.
In order to focus the team on today’s game instead of allowing them to look backward, Cronic has reminded them all why they went to Reinhardt.
“They all came here to play football,” he said. “I remind them of how much more there is. We are all disappointed when we don’t win, but we also want to continue to play at a high level. We have to remember that we all came here to play football, and we are still getting to do that.”