Franklin College Selected by Coaches to Win Seventh Straight HCAC Crown

Franklin College Selected by Coaches to Win Seventh Straight HCAC Crown

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.

Players to Watch


    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
      Kaelen Garner     Junior
    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