Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic loves players like running back L.J. Stegall.
He ran down a list of Stegall’s attributes during a recent interview, including phrases like “hard worker,” “team player” and “not high maintenance.”
Oh, and one other thing.
Stegall was a top sprinter at Jeff Davis High in Hazlehurst and now uses that speed to score often for Reinhardt’s first-year team (5-2), which is ranked 19th in the NAIA and takes a five-game winning streak into today’s game against second-ranked Cumberlands (6-0).
He has 14 touchdowns, which leads the Mid-South Conference and is tied for fourth in the country. The redshirt freshman also leads the conference with 156.3 all-purpose yards a game, which helps explain how he has eight TDs rushing, four through the air and two on kickoff returns.
“I just try to get to the end zone the best way I can,” he said. “I sometimes make one or two guys miss, but usually, it’s the blocking. The blocking helps me get up the field.”
Stegall is the B-back, or wingback, in Reinhardt’s multiple offense that relies heavily on Wing-T formations, so he often takes handoffs on sweeps or runs to the outside, where he can utilize his big-play ability.
He has a 64-yard run, a 61-yard reception, and averages 7.6 yards a carry and 28.6 yards on his 17 kickoff returns. Stegall also leads Reinhardt with 476 yards rushing and has 11 catches for 132 yards.
“I was a north-south runner out of the I-formation in high school, but I have to run more east-west in our offense,” Stegall said. “I’ve had to adapt to our offense. I try to be patient and then get going north-south as quickly as possible.”
Of Reinhardt’s five consecutive wins, only last week’s 49-17 victory over Belhaven was a blow out. Cronic admits the Eagles could have lost any of the other four games in the streak, when their average winning margin was 4.3 points.
“We’ve been fortunate there,” he said. “We were lucky in a couple of them. Injuries have hurt us, but we’re playing a lot of people and our fitness level has allowed us to play to the end of games. I’m pleased with them.”
At 1-7 and on a five-game losing streak, Savannah State’s problems continue, but the Tigers have two of the top linebackers in the MEAC.
Sophomore Justin Dixon (Duluth), who plays in the middle, leads the MEAC with 84 tackles, and freshman Marquis Smith, an outside linebacker, is third with 79.
Dixon has reached double figures in tackles in five of the Tigers’ eight games, with a season-high 15 tackles on Oct. 5. He has 50 in the past four games.
Smith had 16 tackles on Oct. 5 and has 45 in the past four games.
Valdosta State QB Cayden Cochran likely will start against North Alabama after missing the second half of last week’s 35-30 win over West Georgia with a right ankle injury.
He didn’t play after halftime, but backup Kaleb Nobles (Fitzgerald) rallied the Blazers with four TD passes and 35 second-half points.
Around the state
Daryl McNeill, who coached Savannah State from 1997-98 and Clark Atlanta from 2010-12, died last week. He was 53. … Albany State QB Frank Rivers, who transferred from Grambling in the offseason, threw five TD passes to five different receivers on his 10 completions in the win over Morehouse. … West Georgia’s Derick Seward is the Gulf South Conference’s special teams player of the week after he had a 93-yard kickoff return for a TD and a conference-high 165 return yards in a loss to Valdosta State. … LaGrange QB Graham Craig leads Division III in passing yards (2,368) and is second in TD passes with 24. He’s averaging 394.7 yards. WRs Griffin Roelle (Lassiter) and Marsalis Jackson (Bradwell Institute) have combined to catch 17 TD passes. … Savannah State QB Antonio Bostick has eight TD passes in his past four games. … Mercer is second in the FCS in rushing defense (80.1 yards), behind two-time defending national champ North Dakota State (75.7). The Bears are ninth in total defense (304.7).
Delta State 38, Shorter 17
Cumberlands (Ky.) at Reinhardt, noon
Birmingham Southern at Berry, 1 p.m.
LaGrange at Methodist, 1 p.m.
Albany State at Clark Atlanta, 2 p.m.
Benedict at Morehouse, 2 p.m.
Concordia at Fort Valley State, 2 p.m.
N.C. Central at Savannah State, 2 p.m.
North Alabama at Valdosta State, 2 p.m.
Point at Presbyterian, 2 p.m.
Georgia Southern at Appalachian State, 3:30 p.m.
Mercer at Campbell, 4 p.m.
West Georgia at West Alabama, 7 p.m.