Aug. 18, 2010

By Amy Farnum

PEAKING THROUGH THE CORNFIELDS:  The Iowa Conference boasts two teams – No. 7 Central and No. 12 Coe College – in the Preseason Top 25 that will most likely battle for the top spot in the league as well as NCAA Division III playoff spots again in 2010.

Central, the defending Iowa Conference champion, returns a record 11 all-conference players, 15 starters and 52 letterwinners from a squad than went 10-1 and advanced to the NCAA playoffs for the 20th time in school history.  Despite the stellar group of returnees, Central will have to replace running back David Zachery, who ranked 20th in the nation last season with 114.0 rushing yards per game.
"We’re a blue-collar football team," said Central head coach Jeff McMartin. "We have to go out every week ready to play and be ready to play our best or we’ll get beat. We can be an exciting football team, but we’ll have to work hard."

McMartin has guided the Dutch to an .803 winning percentage over the last six years, including undefeated regular season records in three of the last four seasons.

Coe compiled a 10-2 record in 2009, while advancing to the second round of the NCAA playoffs.  The Kohawks welcome back 17 starters and 35 letterwinners from that team, including 2009 Iowa Conference MVP Brad Boyle at quarterback and All-American Frank Weymiller at defensive end.  

Both schools open the season with non-conference contests on Sept. 4 with Central hosting UW-Oshkosh and Coe traveling to Iowa Wesleyan, while the two squads will meet each other on Sept. 25.

DRAGONS FIRED UP:  SUNY Cortland is the preseason coaches’ favorite to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference with 17 starters and 49 letterwinners returning from last year’s team that went 7-4 and competed in the ECAC Division III Northwest Bowl.

The Red Dragons will welcome back starting quarterback Dan Pitcher, who sat out the season due to an injury in the second game last year.  Senior defensive lineman Lou Crispo, who also sat out the majority of last season, is healthy again and joins Pitcher as a co-captain.  

Cortland will look to claim the NJAC title and advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time since 2008.  

SIGNAL CALLER:  Monmouth College will be vying for third straight Midwest Conference title and is sure to benefit from the leadership of senior quarterback Alex Tanney, who awarded the Melberger Trophy as the nation’s top Division III football player in 2009.

Tanney, a Preseason All-America selection, paced the nation with 3,856 passing yards, and needs just 43 yards to become the Midwest Conference’s all-time leader in passing yards.  The mark of 10,200 was set by Grinnell’s Troy Daugherty.  

Head coach Steve Bell needs just one more victory to become the winningest football coach in school history.  The Fighting Scots will open at Wartburg on Sept. 4.

TOMMIE BOYS:  St. Thomas enters the season at No. 5 in the Preseason Top 25 – the highest preseason ranking in program history – as the Tommies return 20 starters from a team that posted an 11-2 record and reached the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1990.  

The Tommies have two Preseason All-America first-team picks in senior center Josh Ostrue and senior running back Ben Wartman.  Wartman ranked third in the nation with 1,827 rushing yards last year, while scoring a school-record 24 touchdowns.  Ostrue and Wartman are two of 10 senior starters for the Tommies.

NOTABLE:  Defending NCAA Division II champion UW-Whitewater is not surprisingly the unanimous choice to win the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll.  The Warhawks have won five consecutive WIAC crowns, and are looking to tie the league record of six straight held by UW-La Crosse (1949-54) … No. 9 St. John’s (Minn.) will open its 100th season of football against Northwestern (Minn.) on Sept. 4.  Head coach John Gagliardi will enter his 58th season at SJU, and is still college football’s all-time wins leader with 471 in 62 total seasons … Pacific University is excited to open the school’s first football season following a 19-year hiatus, and supporters have responded by snapping up all 500 reserved season tickets for 2010.  The Boxers will open at Puget Sound on Sept. 4, playing their first varsity football game since 1991.