CLEVELAND, Ohio — The North Coast Athletic Conference preseason football rankings were a bit unkind to Allegheny a year ago. The Gators, who had finished the previous season at 3-7 overall, were tabbed seventh by coaches.
But the Gators proved voters wrong, finishing fourth in the NCAC with a record of 6-4 overall and 6-3 in the conference. The Gators will have to prove those doubters wrong again in 2019.
Allegheny, under first-year head coach Rich Nagy, was selected to finish seventh by NCAC coaches on Thursday.
Wabash was been picked to repeat as conference champions — an honor it shared with Wittenberg and Denison in 2018. Wabash, who produced a 9-1 overall record in 2018, collected six of the possible 10 first-place votes and 96 points overall. Wittenberg, also 9-1 last fall, is slotted second after compiling three first-place votes and 90 total points. Denison earned the final first-place vote and 80 points overall, good for third in the rankings. The Big Red finished last season with an 8-3 record and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985.
DePauw was selected fourth followed by Wooster, Ohio Wesleyan, Allegheny, Oberlin, Hiram and Kenyon, respectively.
Wabash heads into 2019 ranked No. 14 in Division III according to the Lindy’s Top 25 preseason rankings. The Little Giants return two all-conference running backs in the form of seniors Isaac Avant and Ike James. Avant ranked second in the NCAC and 25th in the nation with 1,179 rushing yards to earn first team all-conference honors last season. James led the conference and was 15th in the nation with 1,311 rushing yards as an All-NCAC first-team selection in 2017, missing last season with an injury.
Nine starters are back on the defensive side of the ball for Wabash, including 2018 NCAC Newcomer of the Year Jose Franco. The sophomore cornerback will be joined by five all-conference defensive starters: seniors Brandon Yeagy and Brock Heffron, as well as juniors Jake Page, Blair Brody and Don Schuch.
The 2019 NCAC football season kicks off Sept. 7 with a slate of eight non-conference games. Allegheny opens its season in Troy, N.Y. against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Gators open NCAC play on Sept. 21 at home against Wabash.