After winning its league-leading 14th North Coast football title last fall, Wittenberg has been tabbed to repeat as conference champions in 2017 based on preseason balloting by the 10 league coaches.
The Tigers, who held off a trio of 7-2 squads last fall to top the NCAC standings with an 8-1 mark, collected six of the 10 possible first-place votes cast by the coaches for 95 total points. Wabash, which owns seven NCAC football titles, picked up three of the remaining first place votes to finish second in the poll with 91 points, while Denison secured the final first-place vote and finished third overall with 81 points. DePauw, which joined Denison and Wabash with 7-2 league records last fall, checked in at fourth with 70 points, followed by Ohio Wesleyan (60), Wooster (47), Hiram (39), Kenyon (32), Allegheny (25) and Oberlin (10).
Wittenberg, which enters the season ranked 16th in the D3football.com preseason poll, returns five All-NCAC players and 40 lettermen from its 2016 squad, led by a duo of first-team All-NCAC selections in senior linebacker Jack Kayser (Portsmouth, OH/Notre Dame) and senior return specialist Jeff Tiffner (Springfield, OH/Kenton Ridge). In addition, junior running back DeShawn Sarley (Cincinnati, OH/Colerain), junior linebacker Terrance Crowe (Springfield, OH/Springfield) and senior defensive lineman Chandler Ferko (Plain City, OH/Jonathan Alder) also return to the fold after collecting second-team honors in the NCAC last fall. Despite not receiving All-conference accolades last year, junior quarterback Jake Kennedy (Bellefontaine, OH/Bellefontaine) returns as the signal-caller for the Tigers after logging 2,388 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. Leading the way for the Tigers in 2017 for the 21st season in a row will be head coach Joe Fincham with a career record of 191-43 in Springfield. He enters the season with the fourth highest winning percentage among active Div. III head coaches at .816 and ninth among active Div. III coaches with the 191 total wins. He needs just nine wins this season to become the 25th coach in Div. III history to amass 200 or more victories.
The 2017 NCAC football campaign kicks off with eight non-conference games in week one, while the first conference games of the season are set for week two with Oberlin hosting Kenyon and Wooster traveling to Allegheny.
2017 North Coast Athletic Conference Football Preseason Coaches' Poll