Franklin, Ind. - The nationally ranked Franklin College football team has been selected by coaches as the preseason favorite to capture the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) championship this fall. Franklin received seven of nine first-place votes.
The Grizzlies, winners of four consecutive league titles, are ranked in the D3football.com preseason Top 25 poll and were selected No. 12 in the NCAA Division III Lindy's Sports preseason poll. The program has advanced to the second round of the Division III playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
"Our players and coaches realize that this is a honor with no guarantees of regular-season success. Championships come with a lot of hard work, leadership, teamwork, and good play on the field," said Head Football Coach Mike Leonard, who is entering his 12th season leading Franklin. "This preseason ranking means that we're going to get our opponents' best effort every game. We are anxious to see if we're up to the challenge."
The Grizzlies have some talented returning players to meet the challenge. Junior offensive lineman Austin Carlton (Evansville, Ind./F.J. Reitz) has been named a preseason All-American by Lindy's Sports and D3football.com. He earned first-team All-North Region honors by D3football.com and was a first-team All-HCAC selection in 2013.
Carlton is among nine returning offensive starters. Others are senior running back Joey Pasquale (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville), and senior wing backs Zach Cole (Middletown, Ind./Shenandoah) and Jonny Hession (Speedway, Ind./Speedway). Senior tight end Dylan Jenney (Floyd Knobs, Ind./Floyd Central) rounds out the returning pass catchers.
The defensive is anchored by multiple-year starters junior lineman Nate Bryan (Greencastle, Ind./North Putnam) and senior defensive back Jameson Brock (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) anchor a unit as multiple-year starters.
Franklin opens the season on September 6 at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, starting at 2 p.m. The team's home opener is set for September 13 against defending national champion the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, at 1:30 p.m.
2014 Heartland Conference Football Coaches Preseason Poll
|School (First place votes)||Points|
|Franklin College (7)||79|
|College of Mount St. Joseph (2)||65|
|Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology||48|