WAUKESHA, Wis. -- The football coaches of the Northern Athletics Conference tabbed the Benedictine Eagles as the 2011 favorite in the preseason coaches' poll. The Eagles received 58 poll points and three of the eight first-place votes, just a slim favorite over the Spartans of Aurora (55 points, 3 first-place votes) for the top spot in the poll.
The Eagles finished last season with a perfect 7-0 record in conference play, claiming their first Northern Athletics Conference title. They were 8-3 overall, falling in the first round of the NCAA III Championship to St. Thomas (Minn.).
The Eagles were second in the league in scoring offense (34.4) and third in scoring defense (22.4), but were the best red zone team in the conference on both sides of the ball in 2010. They converted on 86 percent (36-of-42) of their offensive possessions while holding their opponents to a 68 percent (17-of-25) of their attempts in the red zone.
Benedictine lost its first team all-conference quarterback-wide receiver combo of Preston Earl and Mike Trombetta to graduation, but returns first-teamers Jon Borsellino (Jr., RB), Bryan Wiesemann (Sr., TE) and Kevin Novacich (Jr., OL) to their potent offense.
The Spartans finished third last season with a 5-2 conference record (7-3 overall), yet each of their losses came by just seven points. Aurora had the top defense in the league, allowing just 255.9 yards per game, which was also No. 18 in the nation.
Concordia Chicago (8-2, 6-1 Northern) got the third spot in the poll with 42 points and Wisconsin Lutheran (6-4, 4-3) was fourth with 40. Both the Cougars and the Warriors received a first-place vote. The Cougars had the top offense in the conference last season, and was fourth-best in NCAA Division III, but lost the conference offensive player of the year, running back Khyree Copeland, and 2009 co-offensive player of the year, Mike Marotta, to graduation as the end of last season.
The last four spots in the poll went to Concordia Wisconsin (36 points; 2-8, 2-5), Lakeland (30; 4-6, 3-4), Rockford (16; 0-10, 0-7) and Maranatha (11; 1-9, 1-6).
All eight teams open up their nonconference schedule on Saturday, Sept. 3, while the conference portion of the schedule begins on Saturday, Oct. 1. Benedictine and Aurora meet Oct. 8, in Lisle, Ill., for the preseason No. 1-2 match up.
The Northern Athletics Conference champion becomes the league's automatic qualifier in the 2011 NCAA III Championship.
2011 Northern Athletics Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Benedictine (3), 58
2. Aurora (3), 55
3. Concordia Chicago (1), 42
4. Wisconsin Lutheran (1), 40
5. Concordia Wisconsin, 36
6. Lakeland, 30
7. Rockford, 16
8. Maranatha, 11
first-place votes in parentheses
voted on by the eight head coaches