Witt the team to beat in North Coast Athletic Conference

Aug 21, 2018

The Wittenberg University football team has been picked to repeat as the North Coast Athletic Conference champion in the preseason coaches’ poll.

The Tigers, who went 10-0 a year ago to win their 15th overall NCAC title, picked up seven of 10 possible first-place votes, earning a total of 96 points. Wabash (85 points), DePauw (81) and Denison (75) each picked up one first-place vote. Ohio Wesleyan was picked to finish fifth with 57 points, followed by Wooster (46), Allegheny (42), Oberlin (26), Hiram (23) and Kenyon (19).

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Of course, Tigers coach Joe Fincham knows the poll doesn’t mean much this time of year.

“Those polls are more about what you did last year than what you’re going to do this year,” said Fincham, whose team is ranked 14th in the country. “It’s nice that your opponent’s feel you’re going to have a good club. At the end of the day, it really didn’t matter.”

It helps the team has several veteran leaders, including senior quarterback Jake Kennedy, running back DeShawn Sarley and linebacker Terrance Crowe.

The Tigers’ senior class has made back-to-back playoff appearances, advancing to the second round in 2016.

“There’s very little that’s more important than experience in big games,” Fincham said. “We do have some guys who have not only played in big games but won some. Being able to go into big games and knowing you can compete at a high level is important.

Last season, the Tigers completed their 20th undefeated regular season, including its sixth under Fincham.

At this point in the season, the Tigers are likely most teams — mentally and physically tired, Fincham said.

“We’ve got some nicks and bruises on us, but hopefully it’s nothing that’s too awfully bad,” he said.

The Tigers held their annual Red and White scrimmage Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field. The scrimmage signaled the end of preseason camp as the players started classes Monday morning.

“We have some guys who’ll take limited reps, but it’s the end of camp and it’s an opportunity for guys to get out and make some plays with officials on the field and the lights on,” Fincham said.

Wittenberg will open its season at home against Westminster College (Pa.) at 1 p.m. on Sept. 1.