WALESKA, Ga. – The University of Pikeville football team led at No. 19 Reinhardt for 58 minutes, but costly penalties and a determined Eagle offense proved the difference down the stretch as they held on for a 32-28 win on Saturday.
Reinhardt took over on offense down by two with 3:23 left to play and put together a nine-play, 72 yard drive to take its first lead of the game on an eight-yard run by Niagel Curtis. The score was part of 13 straight unanswered points to end the game as the Eagles remained undefeated at 4-0.
UPIKE (2-3) moved the ball into Eagle territory in the final minute, but a last-second heave into the end zone fell to the turf to bring the game to a close.
It was a tough ending to a game with plenty of good performances. UPIKE tight end Jamon Langford finished with a program-record 187 receiving yards on nine catches with two touchdowns. Sani Warren completed 16 of 28 passes for 291 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions and Quan Weaver rushed for 135 yards and a score, giving him four games with 100 plus yards this season.
Curtis was a force for Reinhardt, rushing for 132 yards and carrying the ball into the end zone three times. In the end, it was UPIKE leading the game in total offense at 527-467. Matthew Robinson paced the Bear defense with 11.5 tackles, while Nick Steff came up with a sack.
Langford came into Saturday with 113 receiving yards through four games, but had 104 yards on two catches just minutes into the action. His first catch went for an 81-yard touchdown that put UPIKE up 7-0 just 51 seconds in.
After the Bear defense stopped two Reinhardt drives, the offense took over at their one-yard line, before running the ball through the Eagle defense on its way to setting up Warren and Langford again in the red zone.
A quick slant pattern was all it took as Langford snagged his second touchdown to put the Bears up by 14 early in the second quarter. Jamar Kirksey was instrumental on the drive, gaining just over 30 yards on three carries to pick up a pair of first downs.
UPIKE extended its lead to 21 points the next time it touched the ball as it utilized a Bearcat formation featuring reserve quarterback Russell Gordon and Weaver both taking snaps. A big chunk of the yards were gained on a double-reverse pass that ended up being thrown by Warren to Elijah Bell.
To end the drive, Weaver took a direct snap and charged straight ahead for six, giving the Bears a 21-0 lead with 10 minutes left until halftime, but the Eagles wouldn’t stay scoreless for long.
Reinhardt countered with 19 unanswered points in the last nine minutes of the half. Curtis scored the first touchdown on a two-yard run, then Ryan Thompson threw a pair of passes to the end zone to Aaron Kennedy and Deonte Dennis to make it a two-point game at halftime.
UPIKE put an end to the Eagle’s run on its first drive of the third quarter as Weaver broke off a 53 yard run to set up a slant pass to Eddie Miller III in the end zone. The touchdown catch, Miller’s first of the season, made it a two-possession game for the Bears again at 28-19.
Reinhardt made sure it was a battle down the stretch as it scored its first touchdown of the second half with 9:37 left in the fourth quarter. A one-yard rush from Curtis got it done, and following a successful extra point, made it only a 28-26 lead for the Bears.
Only a minute was taken off the clock on UPIKE’s next drive, giving the ball back to Reinhardt on the Bears’ 47-yard line with a chance to take the lead. But the defense stayed strong, and the Eagles were hit with a 15-yard penalty when a lineman’s helmet came off and he continued play, forcing Reinhardt to try a 46-yard field goal.
The kick was low and landed well short of the goalpost. But this time it was the Bears who were hit with a 15-yard personal foul when they took over on offense, turning a third and inches into a third and long that they couldn’t convert, giving Reinhardt another chance on offense with time running out.
A hurry-up attack was the answer for Reinhardt, using quick run plays to charge ahead into Bear territory. It added in a long pass down the sideline to Kennedy that ultimately led to Curtis running in another score from eight yards out. A two-point conversion failed, but the Eagles took the lead for the first time at 32-28 with 1:23 on the clock.
UPIKE had a manageable second and six on their 43-yard line, but a costly holding penalty pushed it back 10 yards, forcing Warren to complete a pair of passes to get just past the 50. One last heave into the end zone came up empty as the Eagles avoided being knocked off for the first time this season.
The Bears will be back in action at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3, hosting Cumberland (Tenn.) at the Hambley Athletic Complex.