BLUEFIELD, Va. — Thanks to last week’s 57-14 victory over Union College, the Bluefield College football team reached the midpoint of the regular season with something tangible show for its progress.
Now comes the second half, coming right at them with the tangibility of a freight train.
The Rams (1-5, 1-0 Mid-South Conference) will face a daunting challenge in Game 6 when they face ranked Reinhardt University (4-2, 2-1) in an MSC game at Waleska, Ga. on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.
The Eagles are ranked 20th nationally in the NAIA , their only losses have been to NCAA FCS Division I opponent Kennesaw State (33-7) and NAIA No. 19 Keiser (14-12).
“We’ll have to play our ‘A’ game. We can’t turn the ball over and give them the short field. We’ll have to make them go the distance,” said Bluefield College head coach Dewey Lusk.
For the Rams defense, it will be a classic battle of manhood. Coached by Virginia Tech player alumnus James Miller, Reinhardt is a rushing-heavy double wing attack, prone to running a lot of motion and using an unbalanced front. They’re an extremely physical football team, wearing down opponents by running the ball down opponents throats and exploiting whatever big play opportunities arise from efforts to stop it.
“Defensively, we have to hang in there and tackle well and handle the physicality,” Lusk said, who’ll be looking for continued leadership on defense from linebacker Damarcus Wimbush, defensive linemen Collin O’Donnell and Kasean Ridgel, as well as Jonathan Green and Tyrice Henry in the secondary.
Bill Hall leads Reinhardt individual rushers with 363 net yards and six touchdowns. The Eagles, who’ve rushed for 1,563 and 15 TDs collectively on the season, have two other RBs with more than 200 yards rushing and two more with more than 100.
“They try to take it right at you and lull you to sleep, then throw it right over the top to one of their fast kids. They are a physical football team and they normally don’t beat themselves,” Lusk said. The big play potential is also evident on special teams. Last week, Eagles running back Otis Odom earned NAIA National Special Teams Player of the Week honors with his 92-yard kickoff return for score in a 71-21 win over Kentucky Christian.
Bluefield College refused to beat itself against Union College last week, winning the turnover battle while out-rushing the Bulldogs 296 yards to 178 and maintaining a 188-133 yard differential in the passing game. Xavier Freeman led the Rams with 119 yards rushing and Tavis White churned out 95 yards.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids because its tough when you’re 0-4. But man, they played hard, they played together, they played well and played for four quarters, something we haven’t done all year,” Lusk said.
“Some of the younger kids just had to get experience under their belt. If they were ready to go from the start, they probably wouldn’t be at Bluefield. But they got the experience we needed to get a total team win.”
“We played well and like we’re capable of playing,” Lusk said. “Hopefully we can built off that momentum.”
Rams QB Aidan Wilder passed for 188 yards and four scoring strikes with 188 of it to Jaquan Ebron, who had three of the touchdown receptions. Greg Ebron also had a TD catch for BC.
“Aidan ... as good a quarterback as he is, he’s an even better human being. He threw the ball extremely well and was very accurate. Being an older kid amongst a lot of younger kids ... that’s tough. But for him, he’s very patient, very mature and very understanding. He keeps battling and that’s going to be huge this week,” Lusk said.
Wilder’s virtues will be tested under pressure on Saturday night.
“They have a tremendous defensive front so (Aidan) has to patient and get us in the right place and we’ve got to pick and choose our spots for throwing the football. Their defensive line, man you’ve got to get it off quick. Because they are in track stance and man, here they come,” Lusk said.