INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Franklin College claimed their tenth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, posting an 8-0 league mark. The Grizzlies have been selected as the favorite to win a ninth-straight league crown in 2018, according to a poll of the HCAC's nine head coaches.
Franklin, who was 8-3 overall in 2017, held off Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the preseason poll receiving 88 points and six first place votes. Rose-Hulman placed second in the voting with 84 points and three first place votes, while Mount St. Joseph University finished third with 68 points. Hanover College (65), Manchester University (53), Bluffton University (45), Defiance College (32), Anderson University (31), and Earlham College (21) round out the poll.
Along with their goal of receiving a ninth consecutive conference crown, the Grizzlies will also be going for their 11th title in 12 years under the direction of seventh-time HCAC Coach of the Year Mike Leonard.
The Grizzlies check in at No. 24 in the College Football America Yearbook's Preseason Division III Top 30 rankings. Franklin will look to reload this year as they do not return any Grizzlies from the 1st Team All-HCAC squad from last season. The Franklin offense has averages 41 or more points per game the past eight seasons and will look to continue that trend this fall. The Grizzlies led the league in the 2017 season with 47 passing touchdowns, 27 rushing touchdowns, and 887 tackles.
Franklin returns two senior defensive lineman from last year's squad. Zak Prater (Bringhurst, Ind.) and Tyler Reed (Indianapolis, Ind.) received 2nd Team All-HCAC recognition last fall after tallying 67 total tackles together. The Grizzlies will begin the 2018 season at home against Benedectine (Ill.) on September 1.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology finished the 2017 campaign with a 7-1 league record (8-2 overall) and is currently ranked No. 19 in the College Football America Yearbook's Preseason Division III Top 30 rankings. The Engineers return four first-team All-HCAC selections. Rose-Hulman will return reigning HCAC Defensive Player of the Year in senior defensive lineman Mike Riley (Naperville, Ill.). The senior has been named a preseason All-American in the College Football America Yearbook, Street & Smith's Preview, by D3football.com and on the Podyum Preseason All-America Team.
Riley recorded 53 tackles, 17 sacks and 20 tackles-for-loss during the 2017 season. The senior was a finalist for the 2017 Cliff Harris Award as the nation's top defensive player and earned honorable mention D3football.com All-American honors. His 17 sacks led all NCAA Division I, II and III football players during the 2017 campaign.
Rose-Hulman will also return four 1st Team All-HCAC selections along with Riley for the upcoming season. Senior safety John Kirby (Lebanon, Ohio), junior offensive lineman Lucas Leiner (Fishers, Ind.) and junior running back Garrett Wight (Williamsfield, Ill.). Rose-Hulman will travel to Mount Union on September 1 to open the season.
Mount St. Joseph University finished in a tie for third in the conference standings in 2017, finishing the conference campaign with a 5-3 record and a 6-4 overall mark. The Lions return four 1st Team All-HCAC selections from last year's squad. Senior wide receiver Grayson Roberts (Cincinnati, Ohio) averaged 83.7 receiving yards per game in the 2017 season, and junior defensive back Tyler Hannah (Cincinnati, Ohio) tallied 34 total tackles. Junior kicker Jerry Porter (Cincinnati, Ohio) and sophomore returner Troy Speakman (Grove City, Ohio) also return for the Lions. Speakman averaged 17.0 yards on 20 kick returns with two touchdowns during his freshman season in 2017. Mount St. Joseph will open the season at home against Capital on September 1.
Hanover College finished alongside Bluffton in the league standings last fall with a 4-4 mark (4-6 overall). The Panthers return 2017 HCAC Freshman of the Year Kyle Treber (Mishawaka, Ind.). The linebacker led the league with 10.9 tackles per game and 58 assists while contributing 98.0 total tackles in his freshman season. Hanover will travlel to Centre on Saturday, September 1 to open the season.
Bluffton University senior Isaac Zickafoose (Middlebury, Ind.) was tabbed as a preseason second team All-American by D3football.com. The defensive end was second on the team with 51.0 tackles, 12.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks lasst season for the Beavers.
The first weekend of the 2018 season is on September 1 with the conference season slated to begin on September 15.
|Kreevon Maple||Junior||Defensive Back|
|Charles Keith||Junior||Defensive Back|
|Kreed Switzer||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Alex Barnett||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|Stephan Marshall||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Johnny Ovalle||Junior||Running Back|
|Bluffton||Ian O'Donnell||Junior||Offensive Line|
|Ethan Williams||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Darrin Greeley||Sophomore||Running Back|
|Isaac Zickafoose||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Keyon Camden||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Ollie Moorer||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Cody Drumm-Turner||Sophomore||Defensive Back|
|Jason Santora||Junior||Wide Receiver|
|Earlham||Elijah Beal||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|R.J. Scott||Junior||Defensive Line|
|Joel Dominguez||Junior||Defensive Line|
|Jamel Barnes||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|
|Cole Burrell||Junior||Defensive Back|
|Franklin||Brad Bonomini||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Ben Fleet||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|David Masayile||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Zak Prater||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Tyler Reed||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Jacob Earl||Junior||Running Back|
|Shawn Coane||Sophomore||Running Back|
|Jackson Daugherty||Junior||Wide Receiver|
|Taylor Bleistein||Junior||Wide Receiver|
|Zach Dauer||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Terrell Anderson||Sophomore||Defensive Back|
|Brandon Merrick||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Manchester||Brady Nyland||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Austin Roberts||Junior||Wide Receiver|
|Donavan Henderson II||Junior||Running Back|
|Conner Bettis||Sophomore||Offensive Line|
|Dillon Nelson||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Jacob Cooper||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Garrett Walker||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Nolan Sipe||Junior||Defensive Line|
|A.J. Glines||Senior||Wide Receiver|
|Troy Speakman||Sophomore||Defensive Back/Returner|
|Tyler Hannah||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Tavon Robertson||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Cole Tepe||Senior||Offensive Line|
|Rose-Hulman||Mike Riley||Senior||Defensive Line|
|Lucas Leiner||Senior||Offensive Line|
|John Kirby||Senior||Defensive Back|
|Garrett Wight||Junior||Running Back|
|Noah Thomas||Sophomore||Wide Receiver|