Trailing 42-38 in the fourth quarter, Mercer retook the lead on a 6-yard TD run by Lakes with 2:51 left then held on as Mercer missed a 42-yard field goal in the final seconds.
Russ was 16 for 22 for 246 yards, while Lakes rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Avery Ward, JT Palmer and Chandler Curtis also hauled in touchdown passes for the Bears, who will be playing their first season in the Southern Conference. Curtis also returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, and Tyler Zielenske kicked a 24-yard field goal.
Niagel Curtis rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns for Reinhardt, an NAIA team in its second season.