GREENWOOD, Ind. – Franklin College claimed their ninth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, posting a 7-1 league mark. The Grizzlies have been selected as the favorite to win an eighth-straight league crown in 2017, according to a poll of the HCAC's nine head coaches.
Franklin, who was 8-2 overall in 2016, held off Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the preseason poll receiving 88 points and seven first place votes. Rose-Hulman placed second in the voting with 80 points and one first place vote, while Bluffton University finished third with 70 points and one first place vote. Mount St. Joseph University (62), Hanover College (57), Defiance College (42), Manchester University (37), Anderson University (31), and Earlham College (19) round out the poll.
Along with their goal of receiving an eighth consecutive conference crown, the Grizzlies will also be going for their tenth title in 11 years under the direction of six-time HCAC Coach of the Year Mike Leonard.
Franklin College quarterback Chase Burton (Corydon, Ind. / Corydon Central) was tabbed as the HCAC's Offensive Most Valuable Player last season after throwing 3,761 yards and 42 touchdowns. The offense has averaged 41 or more points per game the past seven seasons and will look to continue that trend this fall. Franklin will also look to replace 1st team All-HCAC running back Ty'Ronte Files. The Grizzlies return senior wide receivers and 1stteam All-HCAC Lee Wroblewski (Salem, Ind./Paoli) and Deontez Alexander. Wroblewski hauled in 55 passes for 822 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Alexander is the leading returning receiver for the Grizzlies and led the team with 64 receptions for 996 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Senior offensive linemen Samm Hayes (Indianapolis, Ind. / Center Grove) and Sam Burck (Indianapolis, Ind. / Scecina) look to anchor the offensive side of the football for the blue and gold.
The Grizzlies will begin the 2017 season on the road at Thomas More on September 2.
Around the HCAC...
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology earned a share of the conference championship with a 7-1 league record (8-3 overall). The Fightin' Engineers earned the NCAA automatic bid by virtue of defeating Franklin 23-22 earlier this fall. The Engineers return four first-team All-HCAC selections. Rose-Hulman will return reigning HCAC Special Teams Player of the Year in senior kicker Matt Murray. Rose-Hulman will return four 1st Team All-HCAC selections along with Murray for the upcoming season. Senior linebacker Kaelen Garner (Ocean Springs, Miss./H.S.) tallied 48 tackles, ten sacks, and 14 tackles for loss. The Fightin' Engineers also return offensive lineman Parker Young (Manhattan, Ill. / Lincoln-Way Central), defensive back Alec Thompson (Clermont, Fla. / Foundation Academy), and Tyler Brutofksy (Madison, Ala. / Bob Jones). Rose-Hulman will travel to Illinois College on September 2 to open the season.
Bluffton University finished fourth in the HCAC standings last fall with a 5-3 mark (7-3 overall). The Beavers return reigning HCAC Defensive MVP junior Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind. / Northridge) in 2017. Bluffton returns three 1st team All-HCAC honorees this upcoming season. Zickafoose tallied 46 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and 20 tackles for loss as a sophomore last season. Senior wide receiver Micah Roberson (Ada, Ohio / Ada) hauled in 98 catches for 1,030 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Bluffton will open the season on the road at Wooster on September 2.
Mount St. Joseph University finished third in the conference standings in 2016, finishing the conference campaign with a 6-2 record and a 6-4 overall mark. Sophomore quarterback Chaiten Tomlin (Mt. Orab, Ohio / Western Brown) was tabbed as the HCAC Freshman of the Year last season. The honorable mention All-HCAC selection finished the season with 2,356 yards and 28 touchdowns with 61.1 pass completion percentage. MSJ also returns first-team All-HCAC selections Garrett Weaver (Cincinnati, Ohio / Amelia), Cole Tepe (Cincinnati, Ohio / Elder), and Tyler Hannah (Cincinnati, Ohio / Summit Country Day). Mount St. Joseph will open the season at Capital on September 2.
Hanover College finished alongside Defiance in the league standings last fall with a 4-4 mark (4-6 overall). The Panthers return two second-team All-HCAC selections to the offensive side of the football in 2017. Senior running back Justin Conners (Harrison, Ohio / William Henry Harrison) totaled 490 yards and six touchdowns to lead the Panthers' offensive unit. Senior offensive lineman Jacob Sofronko (Ridgeville, Ind. / Winchester) returns to hold the offensive line for the upcoming season. Hanover will host Centre on Saturday, September 2 to open the season.
Defiance College finished in a tie for fifth in the HCAC with a 4-4 record and a 5-5 overall record. Sophomore wide receiver DeVonte' Cravin (Ama, La. / Hahnville) was a first-team All-HCAC selection as a freshman, leading the team with 397 return yards last season. Senior defensive back Markell Moncrief also earned a 1st team All-HCAC spot as a junior with four interceptions and 63 tackles. The Yellow Jackets will kick off the season at home against Baldwin Wallace University on Saturday, September 2.
Manchester University finished seventh place in the standings last season, finishing 2-6 in league action and 2-8 overall. The Spartans return two second-team All-HCAC members to the lineup this season. Senior linebacker Jack Kay (Williamsport, Ind. / Seeger) tallied 97 tackles, and 5 tackles for loss along with 1.5 sacks. Junior defensive back Dillon Nelson (Fairland, Ind. / Triton Central) pulled in three interceptions last season along with 38 tackles. Manchester kicks off the season on Thursday, August 31 on the road against Trine.
Anderson University eighth in the standings a year ago with a 1-7 league record (1-9 overall). Sophomore Jarrett Dickey (Hammond, Ind. / Morton) returns to lead the offense this fall. Dickey earned 1st Team All-HCAC honors as a freshman last season, averaging 16.7 yards per catch with six touchdowns as a wide receiver. The wide receiver also tallied 49 catches for a total of 818 yards last season. Anderson opens the season at home against North Park University on September 2.
Earlham College finished the 2016 season 0-8 in league play and 0-10 overall. The Quakers return four 2nd Team All-HCAC selections from last season. Senior quarterback Wesley Hundley (Gardnerville, Nev. / Douglass) threw for 721 yards and five touchdowns last season with a 48.3 pass completion percentage. Senior wide receiver Marcaus Cooper (Palm Coast, Fla. / Matanzas), offensive lineman Roderick Matthews (Pierson, Fla. / Taylor), and sophomore punter Jordan Christian (Richmond, Ind. / Richmond) also return to the Quakers roster this fall. Earlham is led by 2015 HCAC Coach of the Year Nick Johnson who is in his third year as head football coach at Earlham. The Quakers will open the season at Wilmington (Ohio) on September 2.
The first weekend of the 2017 season is on September 2 with the conference season slated to begin on September 16.
|Dayan Smith||Junior||Offensive Line
|Alex Dickey||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Bluffton||Ian O'Donnell||Junior||Offensive Line|
|Micah Roberson||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Defiance||Tyler Gillig||Senior||Tight End|
|Greg Ward||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Dan Delorieux||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Casey Helton||Junior||Offensive Line|
|DeVonte' Cravin||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|Reed Guerin||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Earlham||Marcaus Cooper||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Roderick Matthews||Senior||Offensive Line
|Jacob Breen||Senior||Offensive Line
|Dakota Fields||Senior||Defensive Line
|Eric Bryant||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Jordan Christian||Sophomore||Defensive Back/Punter|
|Ryan Conner||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Tanner Wroblewski||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Jordan Brown||Senior||Running Back|
|Nathan Adams||Senior||Defensive Line
|Hanover||Justin Conners||Senior||Running Back|
|Jacob Sofronko||Senior||Offensive Line
|Layne Harnishfeger||Senior||Defensive Line
|Zach Dauer||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Jackson Daugherty||Sophomore||Wide Receiver
|Taylor Bleistein||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|Manchester||Dakota Nelson||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Dillon Nelson||Junior||Defensive Back|
|Austin Roberts||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|Eric Beard||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Brady Nyland||Junior||Offensive Line|
|Bailey Partington||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|MSJ||Nolan Miller||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Tyler Hannah||Junior||Defensive Back|
|Tavon Robertson||Junior||Defensive Back|
|A.J. Glines||Junior||Wide Receiver|
|Cole Tepe||Junior||Offensive Line|
|Tyler Brutofsky||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Stanley Hogan||Senior||Running Back|
|Parker Young||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Kevin Dufauchard||Senior||Running Back|