Franklin College Selected by Coaches to Win Ninth Straight HCAC Crown

Franklin College Selected by Coaches to Win Ninth Straight HCAC Crown

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 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 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 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.

Players to Watch


    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  
      Drew Wilson     Sophomore     Linebacker  
      Johnny Ovalle     Junior     Running Back  
Bluffton     Ian O'Donnell     Junior     Offensive Line  
      Ethan Williams     Senior     Offensive Line  
      Darrin Greeley     Sophomore     Running Back  
      Brandon Koch     Senior     Quarterback  
      Dylan Shaffer     Junior     Linebacker  
      Isaac Zickafoose     Senior     Defensive Line  
      Keyon Camden     Senior     Wide Receiver  
      Ollie Moorer     Senior     Defensive Line  
Defiance     Jalin Nealy     Senior     Linebacker  
      Cody Drumm-Turner     Sophomore     Defensive Back  
      Jason Santora     Junior     Wide Receiver  
      Cody Brown     Senior     Linebacker  
      Beau Barkley     Senior     Safety  
Earlham     Elijah Beal     Senior     Wide Receiver  
      Joe Enwright     Senior     Quarterback  
      Jordan Christian     Junior     Punter  
      Kobe Walker     Junior     Linebacker  
      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  
      Austin Fleming     Senior     Linebacker  
      David Masayile     Senior     Defensive Back  
      Zak Prater     Senior     Defensive Line  
      Tyler Reed     Senior     Defensive Line  
      Jacob Earl     Junior     Running Back  
      Braden Smith     Junior     Quarterback  
Hanover     Kyle Trebere     Sophomore     Linebacker  
      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  
      Dakota Manion     Junior     Linebacker  
      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  
MSJ     Chaiten Tomlin     Junior     Quarterback  
      Jerry Porter     Senior     Kicker  
      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  
      Nate Stone     Junior     Linebacker  
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  
      Jack Heyl     Junior     Linebacker  
      Andrew Dion     Sophomore     Quarterback