NEW ULM, Minn. – The Eureka College football team defeated Martin Luther 63-26 Saturday in New Ulm, Minn. to secure the outright Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship and its first trip to the NCAA playoffs. The Red Devils are league champions for the first time since winning the Illini-Badger Football Conference crown in 1995.
LeAnthony Reasnover (Momence, Ill./Momence H.S.) ran for 252 yards and set a new single-game Eureka record with seven rushing touchdowns. He broke the previous record of six that he shared with Eric Leiser, who scored six times against Concordia (Wis.) on Nov. 2, 1991.
The victory is Eureka's eighth in a row, the program's longest in-season win streak since 1991. Eureka will receive the UMAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs, EC's first national postseason appearance since going to the NAIA playoffs in 1994.
Eureka raced to an 8-0 lead just eight plays into the game when Reasnover scored his first of seven touchdowns on a 4-yard run. The Knights immediately fired back when Ian Paulsen threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Josh Arndt on MLC's first play from scrimmage.
The Knights used another quick scoring drive later in the quarter to earn their only lead of the afternoon. Paulsen broke free on a 73-yard run to vault MLC to a 12-8 lead. Reasnover answered on Eureka's next play from scrimmage, a 58-yard touchdown run, and the Red Devils reclaimed a 15-12 advantage.
The Red Devils wouldn't relinquish the lead again. Reasnover broke free for another long scoring run, a 56-yard scamper, that pushed the visitors to a 22-12 lead after one quarter. Martin Luther maintained the pressure to climb back to a 22-20 deficit when Elliot Butler scored on an 8-yard rush. The Red Deils held serve again when Reasnover punched in a 1-yard touchdown run and the Eureka lead was 29-20 with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
MLC delivered its final scoring drive of the afternoon in the final four minutes of the first half. Nate Stein squirmed into the end zone on a 1-yard run and the Eureka lead was trimmed to 29-26 with 3:15 left in the second period. The Red Devils closed the frantic first-half scoring pace when Caleb Fauver (Catlin, Ill./Salt Fork H.S.) hauled in his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 17-yard strike from Nick Holman (Metamora, Ill./Metamora H.S./St. Ambrose) with 38 seconds left before halftime. EC led 36-26 at intermission.
The Red Devils promptly put the contest out of reach early in the third quarter. A sack and a fumble gave the Red Devils possession at the MLC 26 just 72 seconds into the second half. Reasnover scored again for a 42-26 cushion just four plays later. An interception from Chris Friend (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./St. Xavier) gave EC another short field and set the stage for another Reasnover score, a 4-yard run to extend the lead to 49-26.
An MLC turnover on downs followed deep in its own territory. Reasnover made history with his seventh touchdown run just five plays later, a 31-yard run, and rout was was on. Eureka led 56-26 after the extra point from Tanner Kuhne (Prineton, Ill./Princeton H.S.).
Nasir Phillips (Aurora, Ill./East Aurora H.S.) put the exclamation point on the victory with his 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Reasnover ran 25 times for 252 yards and seven touchdowns. He narrowly missed equaling the single-game Division III record of eight rushing touchdowns set by Coe's Carey Bender against Beloit on Nov. 12, 1994.
Holman completed seven passes to seven different receivers for 115 yards. Josh Kuse (Heyworth, Ill./Heyworth H.S.) led the EC receiving corps with 38 yards.
Friend logged a game-high nine tackles. Macae Skaggs (Farmington, Ill./Farmington H.S.) had 2.0 sacks and Trever Zeibert (Monee, Ill./Peotone H.S.) added another. Eureka combined for 8.0 total tackles for loss on the afternoon.
Eureka will learn its first-round NCAA playoffs opponent on Sunday, Nov. 12. The Red Devils will begin play in the NCAA playoffs first round on Saturday, Nov. 18, their first postseason game since dropping a 41-14 NAIA playoffs game at Tiffin (Ohio) on Nov. 19, 1994.