Aug. 18, 2009

By Amy Farnum

After winning the first-ever Northern Athletics Conference title with a perfect league mark, Aurora University is the preseason favorite to repeat as champions of the league.

"Obviously, you feel good for the program and kids but a preseason poll is still just a preseason poll," said Aurora head coach Rich Duncan. "Football is a 'what have you done for me lately' game, and where you are picked in the beginning has nothing to do with where you may finish in the end."

Aurora, which earned an automatic NCAA playoff bid with the NAC title last year, return several all-league players including running back Ryne Reder, who led the league in rushing (93.1 ypg), and defensive linemen Pat Funk, who paced the conference with nine sacks and is a 2009 Preseason Second Team All-American.

The Spartans host Lake Forest College Sept. 5 to open the 2009 season.

GUESS WHO?  Perennial Division III power Mount Union College grabbed the top spot in the annual Ohio Athletic Conference preseason poll, and the Purple Raiders were a virtual unanimous choice in the Preseason Top 25, earning 23 of 25 first-place votes.

The Purple Raiders went 15-0 in 2008 and won both the OAC championship along with a record 10th NCAA Division III National Championship.  Mount Union has won the 17 straight and 20 OAC football titles overall.

"We appreciate the respect that coaches and the media in the OAC have for our program," said 24-year head coach Larry Kehres.  "We also know that playing in this conference is a tremendous challenge week in and week out."

Mount Union opens the 2009 season Sept. 5 at St. John Fisher.  The game will mark Larry Kehres' 300th game as Mount Union's head football coach.  Kehres has headed the team since 1986, compiling a record of 275-21-3.

‘CATS MEOW:  Willamette University cruised through the Northwest Conference with an unblemished 6-0 mark last year, and is the favorite to repeat as champions according to the league’s head coaches.

The Bearcats averaged 47.0 points per game, while allowing just 18.2 points per contest against league foes, as they led the NWC in both categories.  Willamette went 10-0 in regular season action as the squad set school records with 498 points and 69 total touchdowns.

Ranked No. 8 nationally, the Bearcats return 43 letterwinners and 12 starters from 2008, including senior tailback Deon Horne, who ran for 988 yards last year.

The Bearcats kick off 2009 at Concordia-Moorhead Sept. 5.

NOTABLE:  After winning its first Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title and making its first NCAA playoff appearance, Trine University is ready to make a run at it again.  The preseason favorite to win the MIAA returns 14 of 23 starters from last year’s squad that became the first team in league history to win 10 regular season games … Hall of Fame head coach John Gagliardi of Saint John’s, the winningest coach in college football history, is poised to direct the Johnnies in his 600th career game this season – a contest at Concordia-Moorhead Sept. 19.  He has compiled a remarkable 461-125-11 mark in 60 seasons (56 at Saint John’s) in his career.