Eureka Moves to Brink of UMAC Title, Beats St. Scholastica, 40-34

Photo courtesy of Traci Zeibert.
Photo courtesy of Traci Zeibert.

EUREKA, Ill. – On an afternoon in which junior running back LeAnthony Reasnover (Momence, Ill./Momence H.S.) broke all-time, single-season and single-game Eureka College rushing records, the Red Devils moved within one victory of an Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship and their first national playoffs bid since 1994 in a 40-34 league win over St. Scholastica at a frigid McKinzie Field, Saturday afternoon.

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Reasnover carried 53 times for 355 yards, a new single-game Eureka rushing record. He ended the day with 3,556 career yards, a new all-time program record, and increased his 2017 rushing total to 1,582 to break the Red Devils' single-season mark.

The Red Devils moved into a first-place tie in the UMAC standings with St. Scholastica with identical 7-1 league records thanks to Saturday's victory. With a win next weekend in the regular-season finale at Martin Luther, Eureka can clinch at least a share of the UMAC championship and earn its first national postseason bid since going to the NAIA playoffs in 1994. With head-to-head victories over MacMurray and St. Scholastica, Eureka owns all tiebreakers for the UMAC's automatic NCAA playoffs bid in the event of a first-place tie in the final UMAC standings.

Eureka's special teams unit gave the Red Devils a short field for their first score of the day. A partially blocked punt by EC's Ray Vogel (Bartonville, Ill./Limestone H.S.) gave the Red Devils possession at the CSS 10. Reasnover ultimately ran three times, including a 3-yard score at the 3:38 mark of the first quarter, for a 6-0 lead.

The Saints quickly pushed back for a 7-6 lead when quarterback Zach Edwards found Christian Rund for an 11-yard score. CSS led 7-6 at the end of the first period.

Reasnover broke free for his longest run of the day on the second play of the second quarter, a 61-yard score for a 13-6 cushion. The Saints kept the pressure on the Red Devils on the ensuing series when Edwards connected with Hunter Thompson for a 12-yard touchdown. Joe Matthews made the extra point and CSS moved back in front, 14-13.

The Red Devils responded with an 8-play, 64-yard scoring drive to regain a 20-14 cushion. Reasnover carried six times on the drive and quarterback Nick Holman (Metamora, Ill./Metamora H.S./St. Ambrose) finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on 3rd-and-goal. The Red Devils carried the six-point lead into halftime.

Eureka was on the cusp of securing a two-possession lead on its second series of the third quarter, but the Red Devils' throw to the end zone was intercepted by CSS defensive back Kenneth Jinkins. The Saints took advantage of the takeaway to move back in front, 21-20, when Edwards hooked up with Thompson again for an 11-yard score. CSS led 21-20 after three periods.

The Saints' lead would be short-lived. Eureka responded with a decisive 14-play, 83-yard scoring drive in which Reasnover carried 10 times, including a 1-yard touchdown rush for a 26-21 lead. The Red Devils promptly forced a CSS punt and pushed their lead to 33-21 on another Reasnover score, a 4-yard run with 4:34 left in the game.

CSS refused to go away, pulling within 33-27 on a trick scoring play in which offensive lineman Elliot Simon received a lateral and threw a 28-yard touchdown to Olson with 4:02 left. Eureka held serve on the ensuing series, pushing the advantage to 40-27 on Reasnover's fifth rushing touchdown of the day from two yards out.

Edwards completed three passes on the Saints' final scoring drive of the day, including a 2-yard lob for a touchdown to Thompson with 59 seconds left to cut the deficit to 40-34. Eureka's Josh Mead (Tampico, Ill./Bureau Valley H.S.) recovered an onside kick moments later and the Red Devils kneeled out the clock to win the game, 40-34.

Reasnover rushed 53 times Saturday, the most by a Division III player in 2017 and one shy of Eureka's single-game record of 54 set by Derrick Harris at Concordia (Wis.) on Oct. 31, 1992. The Red Devils rushed for 418 yards as a team, the second-highest total in program history and the first time EC has produced 400-yard rushing games in back-to-back weeks.

Macae Skaggs (Farmington, Ill./Farmington H.S.) logged a team-best nine tackles and 2.0 sacks to lead the defense. Colton Fauver (Salt Fork, Ill./Salt Fork H.S.) had an interception in the secondary for a Eureka defense that limited St. Scholastica to 49 rushing yards.

Eureka will play its final game of the regular season next Saturday in a noon UMAC kickoff at Martin Luther in New Ulm, Minn. 

NOTABLES: Eureka ended a seven-game losing streak in the all-time series with the Saints and earned its first victory in four tries over CSS at McKinzie Field. CSS leads the series that dates back to 2009, 7-2 … Jeremiah Vance (Havana, Ill./Havana H.S.) led the Red Devils with 22 receiving yards … Rhett Rondinelli (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton H.S.) finished the day with 62 all-purpose yards … Eureka punted only once Saturday … The Eureka offensive line didn't allow a sack.