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by Ryan Bartels
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Faulkner (1-2) traded heavy blows with third-ranked Reinhardt (2-0) through the bulk of today's non-divisional Mid-South Conference matchup here at Billy D. Hilyer stadium and even held a four-point lead at halftime, but the visiting Eagles' persistence in the rushing game proved too potent for the home team to overcome down the stretch in the 54-31 loss.
Reinhardt possessed the nation's top rushing offense last season compiling over 5,000 total yards at a rate of more than 360 per contest. Not much changed in the off season. The Waleska, Georgia-based, Eagles are already closing in on the 1,000-yard marker after just two games thanks in large part to this afternoon's impressive 597-yard rushing attack. The visitors averaged a staggering nine yards per carry and secured all eight touchdowns on foot. Faulkner had allowed just 171 rushing yards over two games entering today's showdown.
Reinhardt struck on its first possession of the game when a costly Faulkner penalty gave the visitors new life on a failed fourth down conversion effort. The visiting Eagles crossed the goal line two plays later.
Ryan Curran's 18-yard field goal on the following possession trimmed the deficit slightly, but another methodical Faulkner drive at the tail end of the first quarter catapulted the team into its first lead of the day when quarterback Clayton Nichols connected with Terrance Sims at the back of the end zone from 15 yards out.
Nicholas soon fired an 11-yard bullet to Reagan Amos extending the home lead to 10 points just under a minute into the second quarter.
Reinhardt then mounted a 76-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, but missed extra point, before slingshotting back in front on an explosive 52-yard rushing touchdown from Andy Whisenant.
Faulkner countered with a big play of its own courtesy of a 19-scamper from punter Chris Watts on a broken special teams play. The resulting first down ultimately paved the way for another Nicholas-Amos connection in the end zone that armed the home team with a 24-20 advantage at the break.
Reinhardt put together a 56-yard scoring drive out of the gate in the second half, but Faulkner rebounded immediately with a 79-yard eruption, anchored by a 52-yard reception from Sims, that put Faulkner well within striking distance.
Blake Levin's 22-yard, game-tying field goal effort missed right, however, giving momentum back to the vigorous rushing assault.
Reinhardt scored on every opportunity it had in the third quarter and on all but one in the second half, bringing its afternoon scoring efficiency to eight touchdowns on 12 possessions.
Faulkner's final points of the contest came halfway through the third frame on a six-yard touchdown reception by Kawon Bryant.
Faulkner had another good look at the end zone in the fourth quarter, but a Reinhardt interception on the 3-yard line thwarted the effort to chip away at the lead.
"Reinhardt is a very strong team," said head coach Charlie Boren said after the game. "And we didn't play very good defense in the second half. We weren't tackling well and couldn't get off the field and when you do that, you don't have a chance against a team like this."
The visitors might have been electric on the turf, but Faulkner proved lethal through the air. Nicholas was 39-for-61 with 470 yards and four touchdowns and an interception.
Sims tallied 150 yards and a touchdown on seven catches while Amos accounted for 119 yards and two scores on 14 snags.
Bryant accumulated 58 of Faulkner's 82 rushing yards and added 10 yards receiving and a touchdown reception to his statistical totals.
Kylan Cotton had 19 total tackles in the outing, including one for a loss, while Johnson and Hunter Reid had 11 and 10 stops, respectively. Johnson also had two fumble recoveries and a tackle for loss assist, while 1.5 of Reid's tackles also led to lost yardage.
Banton Price had five tackles in the game which included a strip sack.
Faulkner has next week off and will resume action against upstart St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, N.C., on Sept. 23. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. central.