Courtesy of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference
GREENWOOD, Ind. â€“ The College of Mount St. Joseph claimed their fourth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, boasting a 7-0 conference mark. The Lions have been selected as the favorite to win a second-straight league crown in 2010, according to a poll of the HCACâ€™s nine head coaches.
Mount St. Joseph, 9-2 overall in 2009, held off Franklin in the preseason poll, receiving 80 points and eight first place votes.
Franklin College placed second in the voting with 71 points and one first place vote, while Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology finished third with 56 points. Hanover College (48), Manchester College (48), Defiance College (34), Anderson University (27), first-year member Earlham College (23), and Bluffton University (18) round out the poll.
The Mount will be looking for their second consecutive conference crown under the direction of three-time Coach of the Year Rod Huber. Huber will be striving to guide the Lions into the NCAA Division III playoffs for the second straight season.
Mount St. Joseph returns two of the top running backs in the HCAC from a year ago to pace the Lions offense. The running tandem of seniors Jake Davis (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson) and Noah Joseph (Roswell, Ga./Blessed Trinity) return looking to pick up where they left off last fall. Davis led the HCAC in rushing with 891 yards and 12 touchdowns on 190 carries to pace the Lions offense. Joseph finished fourth in the conference with 689 yards on the ground last fall and added seven touchdowns. Junior Joe Noble (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) returns to anchor the Lionsâ€™ front line after losing Anthony Walsh to graduation. The Mount offensive attack was one of the most feared in the HCAC last season, averaging 32.1 points and 408.6 yards of offense per game.
Mount senior linebacker Erik Prosser (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills) returns after being named HCAC Defensive Player of the Year a year ago. Prosser led the Lions defense with 106 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and two fumble recoveries. MSJ also returns a pair of All-HCAC defensive lineman to solidify the Mount defense which ranked fourth in the HCAC in yards allowed per game (349.2) last fall. Senior Robert Fox (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain) and junior Brett Hambrick (Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder) will look to improve on their stats from a season ago. Hambrick led the Lions with 13.0 tackles for loss and a HCAC-best 10 sacks, while Fox added 4.0 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Mount St. Joseph fell in the opening round of the NCAA Division III playoffs 42-14 at Wittenberg last November. MSJ will begin the 2010 season at home against Wilmington (OH) on September 4.
Franklin saw its two year run as conference champs come to an end last fall, finishing the conference campaign with a 5-2 record and a 7-3 overall mark. The Grizzlies will look to climb back to the top of the conference standings this fall despite losing three First-Team All-HCAC members. The blue and gold will turn to a pair of returning quarterbacks from last fall that guided the Grizzlies to the leagueâ€™s top passing attack (302.8 ypg). Seniors Kyle Ray (Trafalgar, Ind./Indian Creek) and Nick Purichia (Indianapolis, Ind./Cardinal Ritter) split time under center last season. Ray finished fourth in the HCAC averaging 174.6 yards per game and added 13 touchdowns, while Purichia tossed 11 touchdowns and 1,363 yards through the air. Senior offensive lineman Chad Schenkel (Carmel, Ind./H.S.) returns to anchor the offensive line after an All-HCAC season a year ago. The blue and gold defense will be led by senior linebacker Nick Cochran (Plainfield, Ind./H.S.) who led the team with 80 tackles from the linebacker position in 2009. Franklin will open the season at Carthage on September 4.
Rose-Hulman finished fourth in the conference last season with a 4-3 conference record, finishing 6-4 overall. The Engineers led the HCAC in scoring offense and total offense, averaging 36.5 points and 428.2 yards per game a year ago. RHIT will have a void to fill at the quarterback position after losing HCAC Offensive Player of the Year Derek Eitel to graduation. The Engineers return Freshman of the Year Kyle Kovach (Munster, Ind./Andrean) at the running back position and Reed Eason (St. Louis, Mo./Parkway North) at wide receiver. Kovach finished his freshman season ranked second in the HCAC with 736 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground for the Engineers. Eason averaged 87.7 receiving yards per game for Rose and hauled in nine touchdowns, ranking third in the conference. Senior linebacker Scott Eaton (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) is the lone First-Team All-HCAC defensive member returning for RHIT this fall. The Engineers finished the season ranked second in total defense, allowing 306.2 yards per contest. Eaton anchored that defensive unit, tallying 112 tackles (2nd HCAC), 10.0 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Rose-Hulman opens the season on the road against DePauw September 11.
Hanover finished fifth in the league standings last fall with a 3-4 mark (3-7 overall). The Panthers offense ranked fourth in the HCAC during the 2009 campaign averaging 346.5 yards of offense per game. Sophomore quarterback C.J. Croft (Ft. Campbell, Ky./H.S.) finished his freshman season second in the conference, averaging 240.3 yards per game through the air. Croft led the HCAC with 27 touchdown passes and also added 577 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Junior Dan Passafiume (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier) led the nation with 11.4 receptions per game last fall and added a conference-best 105.4 receiving yards per game and 14 touchdowns to his accolades. HC will look to improve on the defensive side of the ball after finishing sixth in the HCAC in total defense last season (395.6 ypg). Junior defensive back Rory Mannering (Walton, Ind./Lewis Cass) returns after leading the team with 95 tackles in 2009, also adding 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and three interceptions. Hanover will open the season at Centre September 4.
Manchester finished second in the standings last fall, finishing 5-2 in league action and 5-5 overall. The Spartans will have plenty of holes to fill after graduating five First-Team All-HCAC and three Second-Team All-HCAC members from last yearâ€™s squad. Senior offensive lineman Chase Estepp (Nappanee, Ind./Northwood) is the lone returning First-Team All-HCAC member this fall and will look to anchor the Spartansâ€™ front line. The Manchester defense led the conference a year ago, allowing only 78.8 yards per game on the ground and 300.8 yards per game. Junior defensive back Brecken Kennedy (N. Manchester, Ind./Manchester) returns to lead the Spartans defense, after tallying a team-high 75 tackles with 3.0 tackles for loss and three interceptions. Manchester will play under the lights on Thursday, September 2 against nationally ranked Trine to kick off the season.
Defiance finished alongside Hanover in the conference standings with a 3-4 record. The Jackets finished the season 4-6 overall for the second consecutive season. The Yellow Jackets will look to the defense for success in 2010. DC led the HCAC in scoring defense last fall, surrendering 22.1 points per game while ranking third in total defense (331.3 ypg). The Jackets offense struggled throughout the season, ranking sixth in scoring (19.7 ppg), last in pass offense (133.8 ypg), and seventh in total offense (271.2 ypg). Senior defensive lineman Austin Hedderly (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman), senior defensive back Kyle Longsdorf (London, Ohio/H.S.), and sophomore defensive back Tony Sierra (Warren, Mich./Cousino) return to anchor the defense this fall. Longsdorf was all over the field in 2009, leading the HCAC in tackles (116) while adding 11.0 tackles for loss, three sacks, and two interceptions. Defiance will open the schedule at Muskingum on September 4.
Anderson finished 1-9 overall last season with a conference mark of 1-6. The Ravens finished the season ranked seventh among the HCAC schools in scoring offense (17.9 ppg) and last in scoring defense (37.6 ppg). Junior defensive end Leonard Wells (Warsaw, Ind./H.S.) returns after an All-HCAC season a year ago. Wells led the Ravens and ranked among the conference leaders with 10 sacks last fall and added 9.5 tackles for loss and 65 tackles during the season. Anderson will open the 2010 season at home against rival Taylor on September 2.
Earlham College begins competition as a member of the HCAC this fall. The Quakers finished 3-4 in the North Coast Athletic Conference and 5-5 overall last fall. EC graduated all six players that received All-NCAC honors last season and will look to fill the gaps as they prepare to face new competition. Senior defensive back Ben Randall (Milford, Ohio/H.S.) returns to lead the Quaker defense. Randall posted 68 tackles and an interception for EC last fall. Earlham faces Sewanee in Richmond on September 4 to open the season.
Bluffton finished 0-10 overall last season with a conference mark of 0-7. The Beavers return one First-Team All-HCAC selection from last yearâ€™s squad. Junior specialist Todd Trotter (Cincinnati, Ohio/Aiken University) returns to help a Bluffton offense that ranked last in scoring (12.3 ppg) and yards per game (232.4) last fall. Trotter racked up 909 yards and two touchdown returning kickoffs during the 2009 season, averaging 22.2 yards per return. The Beavers ranked seventh among HCAC teams in scoring defense (37.0 ppg) and last in total defense (407.2 ypg) last fall. Bluffton will travel to Kalamazoo on opening weekend.
The first weekend of the 2010 season is on September 4 with the conference season slated to begin on September 18.