Story courtesy of the Heartland Conference
Photo courtesy of Franklin Athletics
GREENWOOD, Ind. – Franklin College claimed their fourth Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football title last fall, boasting an 8-0 conference mark for the second straight season. The Grizzlies have been selected as the favorite to win a third-straight league crown in 2012, according to a poll of the HCAC’s nine head coaches.
Franklin, who was 10-2 overall in 2011, held off Mount St. Joseph in the preseason poll receiving 79 points and seven first place votes.
The College of Mount St. Joseph placed second in the voting with 67 points and the final two first place votes, while Hanover College finished third with 62 points. Bluffton University (48), Defiance College (41), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (38), Manchester University (34), Anderson University (21), and Earlham College (15) round out the poll.
Along with their goal of receiving a third consecutive conference crown and NCAA Division III playoff berth, Franklin will also be going for their fifth title in six years under the direction of five-time Coach of the Year Mike Leonard.
The No. 13 ranked Grizzlies (D3football.com) will be directed on offense by HCAC Offensive Most Valuable Player Jonny West (Avon, Ind./Speedway). The junior quarterback earned Second-Team All-North Region honors from D3football.com as a sophomore and will look for bigger and better things this fall. West led the HCAC in completion percentage (60.8%), touchdowns (32), and passing yards per game (298.4) last fall. The Grizzlies also return their top receiver from last season as Kyle Linville (Speedway, Ind./H.S.) comes back for his junior season. Linville led the league with 84 receptions, 11 touchdown grabs, and 1,226 receiving yards as a sophomore. The blue and gold offensive attack was the most feared in the HCAC last season, averaging 38.5 points and 449.0 yards per game.
Franklin’s defense will try to replace the 2011 HCAC Defensive Most Valuable Player David O’Rourke. The senior led the HCAC in sacks and anchored the Grizzlies defensive line. This fall, junior defensive back Zack Corpe (Granger, Ind./Elkhart) returns after earning First-Team All-HCAC honors as a sophomore. Corpe tallied 30 tackles, an interception, and two forced fumbles last fall. In conference play, the Franklin defense led the HCAC in scoring defense (17.9 ppg) and ranked fourth in total defense (332.1 ypg).
Franklin fell in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs 41-14 at eventual national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater last November.
FC will begin the 2012 season at home against No. 2 ranked Mount Union on September 1.
Mount St. Joseph finished in a tie for second in the conference standings in 2011, finishing the conference campaign with a 5-3 record and a 6-4 overall mark. The Lions will look to compete for a league title this fall and put an end to Franklin’s reign. Senior running back James Clay (Louisville, Ky./Manual Dupont) returns to lead the Mount offense after a great junior season. Clay averaged 113.2 yards per game on the ground and led the HCAC with 16 rushing touchdowns and 7.9 yards per carry. On the defensive side of the ball the Lions return a pair of Second-Team All-HCAC selections. Junior Russell Turner II (Fairfield, Ohio/H.S.) and senior Sean Brooks (Englewood, Ohio/Northmont) come back to anchor the defensive line. Turner II posted 47 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last fall, while Brooks added 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and an interception. Mount St. Joseph will open the season at home against Wilmington (OH) on September 1.
Hanover College finished second alongside Mount St. Joseph, Rose-Hulman, and Bluffton in the conference last season with a 5-3 conference record, finishing 5-5 overall. The Panthers ranked second in the HCAC in scoring offense (36.8 ppg), total offense (429.2 ypg), scoring defense (19.0 ppg), and led the league in total defense (293.0 ypg) during league play last fall. Hanover will receive a boost offensively as Preseason D3football.com All-American wide receiver Daniel Passafiume (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier) returns after missing last season due to illness. Alongside Passafiume will be 2011 First-Team All-HCAC selection Dwayne Eubanks (Mitchell, Ind./H.S.). The junior receiver averaged 76.6 yards per game and racked up 10 touchdowns last fall. Senior linebacker Andy Dalton (Guilford, Ind./East Central) will look to lead the Panthers defense after earning First-Team All-HCAC honors as a junior. Dalton led the team with 107 tackles while adding 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and three interceptions from the linebacker position. New head coach Steve Baudendistel and the Panthers open the season on September 1 at Illinois College.
Bluffton University also finished second in the league standings last fall with a 5-3 mark (5-5 overall). The Beavers offense ranked fifth in the HCAC during the 2011 campaign, averaging 347.9 yards per game. BU will look to replace all seven First and Second-Team All-HCAC selections from last fall. Senior Tyler Wright (Troy, Ohio/H.S.) will take over full time duty as quarterback of the Beavers after splitting time with Christopher Byrd last season. Wright completed 60.5% of his passes for 579 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 39.3 yards per game and six touchdowns via the ground game. The Bluffton defense ranked sixth in the HCAC during league play last year, allowing 369.2 yards per game. Senior defensive back Justin Hahn (Rocky River, Ohio/H.S.) is the leading returning tackler after racking up 54 stops with five tackles for loss and two interceptions in 2011. Bluffton will open the season at home against Kenyon on September 1.
Defiance College finished sixth in the standings last fall, finishing 4-4 in league action and 4-6 overall. The Yellow Jackets, under the direction of new head coach Brian Sheehan, return a pair of First-Team All-HCAC players to the defensive side of the football. Senior defensive lineman Gregg Pickett (Cincinnati, Ohio/Glen Este) returns after totaling 52 tackles with 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, and an interception as a junior. Senior defensive back Tony Sierra (Warren, Mich./Cousino) also totaled 52 tackles with a pair of interceptions. The Jackets ranked third in total defense during the conference season, allowing 330.5 yards per contest. Defiance kicks off the 2012 season at home against Albion on September 1.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology finished in a tie for second in the HCAC with a 5-3 record and a 5-5 overall record. The Engineers will look to improve upon last year’s defense that ranked eighth overall in total defense (380.2 ypg). RHIT returns All-HCAC Second-Team linebacker Ryan Gallagher (Greenwood, Ind./H.S.) after a successful junior season. Gallagher totaled 72 tackles with 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks last fall. Rose-Hulman returns the main cog of the offensive unit that ranked fourth in the league in scoring (25.8 ppg) and total offense (358.4 ypg) during league play last season. Senior running back Kyle Kovach (Munster, Ind./Andrean) finished the 2011 season with 1,213 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns. The First-Team All-HCAC running back earned a spot on the SI.com/Associated Press Little All-America Team, becoming the first Rose-Hulman player chosen to the squad since Carl Herakovich in 1958. The Engineers will kick off the season on September 1 at home against Kalamazoo.
Manchester University finished 4-6 overall last season with a conference mark of 3-5. The Spartans finished the conference season ranked seventh among HCAC schools in scoring offense (22.0 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (25.0 ppg). MU returns a pair of First-Team All-HCAC members to the squad this fall. Senior wide receiver Kurt Monix (Crown Point, Ind./Lowell) led the black and gold as a junior with 52 receptions for 544 yards and four touchdowns. Senior kicker Kyle Evans (Winamac, Ind./West Central) earned the HCAC Special Teams Most Valuable Player award last fall, scoring 59 points for the Spartans. Evans connected on 12 of his 18 field goals, ranking 15th nationally. Manchester will travel to Trine on Thursday, August 30 to open the season.
Anderson University placed eighth in the HCAC with a 1-7 mark (1-9 overall). The Ravens defense ranked last in the HCAC during the conference season in scoring defense (35.1 ppg) and total defense (417.6 ypg). First year head coach Bobby Ladner will look to improve on those numbers this fall as AU attempts to move up the standings. Offensively, junior running back Marcus Spann (Fishers, Ind.) returns after earning Second-Team All-HCAC honors last fall. Spann ranked third in the HCAC last season, averaging 104.3 yards per game on the ground with seven touchdowns. Anderson opens the season at home against rival Taylor on September 1.
Earlham College finished 0-10 overall last season with a conference mark of 0-8. The Quakers offense ranked last in the HCAC in scoring (7.1 ppg) and total offense (193.6 ypg). New head coach Neil Kazmierczak will look to improve upon those numbers this fall and earn the school’s first win as a member of the HCAC. Earlham will open the season at home against Oberlin September 1.
The first weekend of the 2012 season is on September 1 with the conference season slated to begin on September 15.