GREENWOOD, Ind. – Franklin College claimed their eighth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, posting a perfect 8-0 league mark. The Grizzlies have been selected as the favorite to win a seventh-straight league crown in 2016, according to a poll of the HCAC's nine head coaches.
Franklin, who was 8-3 overall in 2015, held off Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the preseason poll receiving 78 points and six first place votes. Rose-Hulman placed second in the voting with 68 points and one first place vote, while Mount St. Joseph University finished third with 66 points and one first place vote. Bluffton University (56, 1 1st place vote), Manchester University (40), Defiance College (31), Hanover College (30), Anderson University (25), and Earlham College (11) round out the poll.
Along with their goal of receiving a seventh consecutive conference crown and NCAA Division III playoff berth, the Grizzlies will also be going for their ninth title in 10 years under the direction of six-time HCAC Coach of the Year Mike Leonard.
The Grizzlies return 14 starters, including six on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Chase Burton was tabbed as the HCAC's Offensive Most Valuable Player last season after throwing 3,850 yards and 36 touchdowns. The offense has averaged 41 or more points per game the past six seasons and will look to continue that trend this fall. Franklin will also look to replace 1st team All-HCAC wide receiver Mason Deal. Senior wide receiver and 1st team All-HCAC wide receiver Lee Wroblewski (Salem, Ind./Paoli) will look to take over the production from Deal. Wroblewski hauled in 56 passes for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns last fall and is the leading returning receiver for the Grizzlies. Junior offensive linemen Samm Hayes (Indianapolis, Ind./Center Grove) and Landon Johnson (Liberty Township, Ohio/Lakota West) look to anchor the offensive side of the football for the blue and gold.
Franklin's defense returns seven starters, including two 1st team All-HCAC selections from a year ago. Seniors Taylor Christensen (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), Trevon Sevion (Beech Grove, Ind./Beech Grove), and Devante Ash (Indianapolis, Ind./Perry Meridian) look to lead the Grizzlies' defensive efforts in 2016. Ash tallied 35 tackles, including three sacks last season. Sevion added 22 tackles and one interception, while Christensen posted 39 tackles with three interceptions.
Franklin fell in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs 27-22 at home against Ohio Northern last November.
The Grizzlies will begin the 2016 season at home against Thomas More on September 3.
Around the HCAC...
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology placed second in the HCAC standings with a 6-2 league record (8-2 overall). The Fightin' Engineers will look to compete for a league title this fall and put an end to Franklin's reign. RHIT ranked second in the HCAC in total offense (471.5 ypg) and tied first with Franklin in scoring offense (42.6 ppg) a year ago. The Engineers return four first-team All-HCAC selections. Senior wide receiver Alec Fisher (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills) hauled in 46 passes for 701 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Senior quarterback Austin Swenson (Wauconda, Ill./H.S.) completes 68.3% of his passes for 2,374 yards and 26 touchdowns, earning second-team All-HCAC accolades. Junior linebacker Kaelen Garner (Ocean Springs, Miss./H.S.), senior Connor Kispert (Oswego, Ill./H.S.), and junior Alec Thompson (clermont, Fla./Foundation Academy) return for the Engineers as 1st team All-HCAC selections last fall. Garner led the team last season with 60 tackles, and also tallied six tackles for loss. Kispert added 38 tackles with 9.5 sacks, and Thompson pulled in five interceptions with 41 tackles for the 2015 campaign. Rose-Hulman will welcome Illinois College on September 3 to open the season.
Mount St. Joseph University finished third in the conference standings in 2015, finishing the conference campaign with a 6-2 record and a 7-3 overall mark. The Mount ranked fourth in the HCAC in total offense (434.7 ypg) during league play last season. Sophomore wide receiver Garrett Weaver (Cincinnati, Ohio/Amelia) was tabbed as the HCAC Freshman of the Year last season and is the leading returning offensive player from last season's team. The 2nd team All-HCAC selection finished the season with 995 yards and 17 touchdowns on 44 passes. MSJ also returns second-team All-HCAC selections Colan Beare (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills), Cole Tepe (Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder), and Cory Hardin (Louisville, Ky./Ballard). Beare and Tepe were second-team offensive linemen, and Hardin was a second-team defensive linemen. Mount St. Joseph will open the season at home against Augustana on September 3.
Bluffton University finished fourth in the HCAC standings last fall with a 5-3 mark (6-4 overall). The Beavers must replace reigning HCAC Defensive MVP Ryan Aelker (New Bavaria, Ohio/Holgate) in 2016. Bluffton returns two 1st team All-HCAC honorees this upcoming season. Senior wide receiver Micah Roberson and sophomore defensive linemen Isaac Zickafoose. Roberson hauled in 100 catches for 1,096 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and Zickafoose tallied 33 total tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks on the season. Bluffton will open the season at home against Wilmington on September 3.
Manchester University finished fifth place in the standings last season, finishing 5-3 in league action and 5-4 overall. The Spartans return three first-team All-HCAC members to the lineup this season. Junior running back Hunter Hardee (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) carried in 10 touchdowns on 1,184 yards and 6.2 yards per carry. Senior linebacker Nathan Birk (Indianapolis, Ind./Ritter) tallied 99 tackles, and 4.5 tackles for loss along with three sacks. Sophomore defensive back Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind./Triton Central) pulled in seven interceptions last season along with 46 tackles. Manchester kicks off the season on Thursday, September 1 at home against Trine.
Defiance College finished in a tie for sixth in the HCAC with a 2-6 record and a 2-8 overall record. Senior linebacker Keandre Gilmer (Toledo, Ohio/Rogers) was a second-team All-HCAC selection as a junior, leading the team with 77 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and two interceptions. Senior defensive back Kenny Jones also earned a 2nd team All-HCAC spot as a junior with four interceptions and 39 tackles. The Yellow Jackets will kick off the season on the road against Baldwin Wallace University on Thursday, September 1.
Hanover College finished eighth in the league standings last fall with a 2-6 mark (2-8 overall). The Panthers return a first-team All-HCAC selection to the defensive side of the football in 2016. Senior linebacker Ryan Martin (Greensburg, Ind./H.S.) totaled 143 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles to lead the Panthers' defensive unit. Sophomore quarterback Zachary Donan (New Albany, Ind./H.S.) returns to direct the offense after finishing his freshman season with 1,546 yards passing and 11 touchdowns in eight starts. Hanover will travel to Centre on Saturday, September 3 to open the season.
Anderson University finished alongside Defiance in the standings a year ago with a 2-6 league record (2-8 overall). Junior Gavin Miller (South Bend, Ind./South Bend Adams) returns to lead the offense this fall. Miller earned Honorable Mention All-HCAC honors as a returner last season, averaging 9.87 yards per catch with two touchdowns as a wide receiver. The wide receiver also tallied 38 catches last season in six games as a sophomore. Anderson opens the season at North Park University on September 3.
Earlham College finished the 2015 season 0-8 in league play and 0-10 overall. Senior defensive end Lajay Kelly (Carson, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic) led the Quakers defense with 97 tackles, one sack, seven tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles last season. Kelly's efforts landed him a spot on the second-team All-HCAC team for his junior year. Earlham is also led by reigning HCAC Coach of the Year Nick Johnson who is in his second year as head football coach at Earlham. The Quakers will open the season at home against Southern Virginia on September 3.
The first weekend of the 2016 season is on September 3 with the conference season slated to begin on September 17.
|Drew Ponder||Senior||Defensive Line||Greenwood, Ind. / Center Grove|
|Gavin Miller||Junior||Tailback||South Bend, Ind. / South Bend Adams|
|Alec Monte||Sophomore||Safety||Gilbert, Az. / Perry|
|Stephen Marshall||Sophomore||Defensive Line||Middletown, Ind. / Shenandoah|
|Jerrod Henderson||Senior||Offensive Line||Muncie, Ind. / Yorktown|
|Garrett Cooley||Senior||Wide Receiver||Indianapolis, Ind. / North Central|
|Alex Dickey||Junior||Defensive Line||Hammond, Ind. / Morton|
|Cameron Shepherd||Senior||Offensive Line||Warsaw, Ind. / Warsaw|
|Bluffton||Conner Sheehan||Senior||Quarterback||Monroeville, Ind. / Heritage|
|Dante Carroll||Senior||Running Back||Gahanna, Ohio / Lincoln|
|Micah Roberson||Senior||Wide Receiver||Ada, Ohio / Ada|
|Hayden Clark||Senior||Offensive Line||Waldo, Ohio / Mt. Gilead|
|Jamison Inskeep||Senior||Offensive Line||Decatur, Ind. / Bellmont|
|Linkoln LaRoche||Senior||Defensive Line||Dola, Ohio / Hardin Northern|
|Aaron Letinski||Senior||Defensive Line||Allen Park, Mich. / Allen Park|
|Tyrone White||Senior||Defensive Back||Orrville, Ohio / Orrville|
|Jake Harmon||Senior||Linebacker||Van Wert, Ohio / Crestview|
|Defiance||Cody Wilson||Senior||Running Back||McComb, Ohio / McComb|
|Logan Scott||Junior||Quarterback||Curtice, Ohio / Genoa|
|Kenny Jones||Senior||Cornerback||Toledo, Ohio / Bowsher|
|Greg Ward Jr.||Junior||Defensive Line||Ypsilanti, Mich. / Ypsilanti|
|Dan Delorieux||Junior||Defensive Line||Tampa, Fla. / East Bay|
|Matt Devore||Senior||Defensive Line||Van Buren, Ohio / Van Buren|
|Markell Moncrief||Junior||Safety||Detroit, Mich. / Southfield Lathrup|
|Corey Bennett||Sophomore||Running Back|
|Earlham||Lajay Kelly||Senior||Linebacker/Defensive Line||Carson, Calif. / Long Beach Polytechnic|
|Malik Lawrence-Reid||Senior||Running Back||Brroklyn, N.Y. / Boys/Girls|
|Denis Caulley||Senior||Defensive Back||Lithonia, Ga. / Arabia Mountain|
|Joseph Miller||Senior||Defensive Line||Carmel, Ind. / Carmel|
|Wes Hundley||Junior||Quarterback||Gardnerville, Nev. / Douglass|
|Marcaus Cooper||Junior||Wide Receiver||Palm Coast, Fla./Matanzas|
|Roderick Matthews||Junior||Offensive Line||Pierson, Fla. / Taylor|
|Jacob Breen||Junior||Offensive Line||Middletown, Ohio / Monroe|
|Franklin||Chase Burton||Junior||Quarterback||Corydon, Ind. / Corydon Central|
|Ty'Ronte Files||Senior||Running Back||Ocala, Fla. / Vanguard|
|Lee Wroblewski||Junior||Wide Receiver||Salem, Ind. / Paoli|
|Samm Hayes||Junior||Offensive Line||Indianapolis, Ind. / Center Grove|
|Landon Johnson||Junior||Offensive Line|
|Solomon Knight||Senior||Defensive Line||Columbus, Ind. / Columbus North|
|Devante Ash||Senior||Defensive Line||Indianapolis, Ind. / Perry Meridian|
|Austin Day||Senior||Linebacker||Indianapolis, Ind. / Decatur Central|
|Ryan Conner||Junior||Defensive Back||Zionsville, Ind. / Zionsville|
|Taylor Christensen||Senior||Defensive Back||Fishers, Ind. / Hamilton Southeastern|
|Hanover||Ricky Windell||Senior||Wide Receiver||Camden, Ind. / Delphi|
|Justin Conners||Junior||Running Back||Harrison, Ohio / William Henry Harrison|
|Ryan Martin||Senior||Linebacker||Greensburg, Ind. / Greensburg|
|Chase Lightfoot||Sophomore||Quarterback||Crestwood, Ky. / South Oldham|
|Jake Allgood||Senior||Safety||Louisville, Ky. / Valley Traditional|
|Jacob Sofronko||Junior||Offensive Line||Ridgeville, Ind. / Winchester|
|Layne Harnishfeger||Junior||Linebacker||Batesville, Ind. / Franklin County|
|Kegan Aldridge||Junior||Defensive Back||Jasper, Ind. / Pike Central|
|Manchester||Brandon Webb||Senior||Tight End||Fort Wayne, Ind. / Concordia|
|Hunter Hardee||Junior||Running Back||Fishers, Ind. / Hamilton Southeastern|
|Eric Wietholter||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Eric Beard||Junior||Offensive Line||Findlay, Ohio / Findlay|
|Nathan Birk||Senior||Linebacker||Indianapolis, Ind. / Cardinal Ritter|
|Zach Rudolph||Senior||Defensive Line||Whiteland, Ind. / Clark-Pleasant|
|Mitchell Oskam||Junior||Defensive Back||St. John, Ind. / Lake Central|
|Jordan Kleber||Senior||Linebacker||Seymour, Ind. / Seymour|
|MSJ||Garrett Weaver||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|MikeWilliams||Senior||Running Back||Cincinnati, Ohio / Taft|
|Nolan Miller||Junior||Defensive Line||Cincinnati, Ohio / Northwest|
|Dustin Applegate||Sophomore||Defensive Line||Cincinnati, Ohio / Elder|
|Jermaine Drake||Junior||Defensive Back||Cleveland, Ohio / Brush|
|Tyler Hannah||Sophomore||Defensive Back||
Cincinnati, Ohio / Summit Country Day
|Colan Beare||Senior||Offensive Line||Cincinnati, Ohio / Oak Hills|
|Cole Tepe||Sophomore||Offensive Line||Cincinnati, Ohio / Elder|
|Rose-Hulman||Austin Swenson||Senior||Quarterback||Wauconda, Ill. / Wauconda|
|Kevin Nowak||Senior||Defensive Back||Naperville, Ill. / Central|
|Alec Fisher||Senior||Wide Receiver||Cincinnati, Ohio / Oak Hills|
||Linebacker||Ocean Springs, Miss. / Ocean Springs|
|Alec Thompson||Junior||Defensive Back||Clermont, Fla. / Foundation Academy|
|Kevin Dufauchard||Junior||Running Back||New Orleans, La. / Lafayette|
|Joe Moehrle||Senior||Wide Receiver/Tight End||O'Fallon, Mo. / St. Dominic|
|Shawn McCown||Senior||Offensive Line||Casey, Ill. / Casey-Westfield|