Buckle up, it’s going to be a fun season.
The Heart of America Athletic Conference held its annual media day Monday, allowing the press and whomever clicked on the Facebook feed to watch the coaches talk about their teams. The preseason poll was also released and while there weren’t any surprises, it shows just how close the race for a conference title could be this season.
Grand View was picked to win the North, Benedictine picked second and William Penn picked third. Grand View received four first-place votes, but Benedictine and William Penn each grabbed one first-place tally. It’s going to be a knock-out, drag-down fight between those three teams in 2018.
BC beat WPU 42-29 in a back-and-forth thriller last year, and lost to GVU 30-27 after entering the fourth quarter down 27-14. WPU then knocked off GVU 33-14. I wouldn’t be shocked if this year brings another “I beat you, you beat him, he’ll beat me” scenario.
The Vikings from Grand View will miss Jordan Knock running the offense this season, but that program is a lot like the Ravens; they are established and deep, with players ready to fill shoes that outsiders might think are unfillable. I suspect whomever is quarterbacking Grand View will do a good job this year.
Penn returns 18 starters from its offense and defense last season, which is a huge number. The Statesmen finished 7-4 in 2017, but with so much experience returning, they’ll be eager to add to that win total in 2018.
The Ravens lose some quality players on both sides of the ball, including on the offensive line. However, head coach Larry Wilcox has several returning stars including quarterback Shaefer Schuetz, receiver Aaron Jackson, and Garrett Bader to anchor the offensive line. The defense returns several playmakers like Eli Lilly, Tyler Thrasher and Keegan Bell. As Wilcox said at Monday’s media day, “The cupboard isn’t bare.”
I suspect BC, GVU and WPU will handle Graceland and Culver-Stockton easily. Peru State stands out as a team that could trip up any of the top trio if the Bobcats are overlooked. But the Heart North title will come down to the final weeks of the season, in late-October and early-November, as Benedictine, Grand View and William Penn battle it out.
A conference championship, and likely a postseason opportunity, will be on the line for all three teams. Let’s get it started.