The football team begins Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play at home against Defiance College tomorrow.
Before the Grizzlies even kicked off for their first game of the 2017-2018 season, nine HCAC head coaches predicted Franklin’s football team to win its eighth-straight conference’s title in a pre-season coaches poll.
The Grizzlies received seven first-place votes and a total of 88 points in this year’s annual poll.
Pre-season polls are made to create some interest for the fans before the sport’s season begins.
“It is a nice honor to receive for our team, but preseason accolades mean nothing,” senior quarterback and last year’s HCAC’s Offensive Most Valuable Player Chase Burton said. “We were picked to win the conference outright last year, and we fell short of our goal.”
Franklin tied with Rose Hulman Institute of Technology for the 2016-2017 HCAC title. Both teams had 7-1 conference records. Rose Hulman was the second-place finisher with 80 points in this year’s coaches’ poll.
In order, Bluffton, Mt. St. Joseph, Hanover, Defiance, Manchester, Anderson and Earlham finished out the poll’s results.
Head Coach Mike Leonard said being chosen to win this year’s conference title is nice, but it may cause some additional small problems for the team.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the coaches that we’re maybe the team to beat, but that just means we have a big old target on our backs, that everyone is trying to beat Franklin,” Leonard said. “And they get excited when they beat Franklin.”
Junior Hannah Rollett, who occasionally attends games with her family, said she finds the poll results exciting.
“Even though I’m not interested in sports, this makes me extremely proud to be a Franklin College student, and it makes me proud of all of our athletes at Franklin,” Rollett said. “I’m not quite sure the full effect it will have on Franklin, but I think it will definitely make Franklin College more well known in the world of college athletics and maybe even attract more students to our school because of sports.”
Leonard and the Grizzlies, who have a total of nine HCAC football titles, will be aiming to win their 10th in 11 years. Franklin started the season with 0-2 record so far, with losses to two non-conference teams. But those do not affect their goal to win the conference title.
“I hope to win the conference and make the playoffs,” Burton said. “Once a team starts a run in the postseason, you never really know how far it can go.”
Leonard said he hopes the poll results will encourage fans of college football to attend more Franklin games and maybe create new fans of Franklin football.
“What I’ve learned recently in going to a sporting event is you want to go to a game to be inspired by something,” Leonard said. “You want to see something that just makes you feel good, and I hope that’s what we can provide.”