Panthers open the regular season on the road at Centre (Ky.) at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1
HANOVER, Ind. – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference released its 2018 Preseason Football Coaches Poll Thursday afternoon (Aug. 9), with Hanover garnering its highest spot in nearly five years.
Under head coach Matt Theobald, who is entering his third year at the helm of his alma mater, the Panthers are coming off back-to-back 4-4 seasons in HCAC play. The Blue and Red have finished tied for fifth in each of the past two conference regular season standings.
After being picked seventh in consecutive polls in 2015 and 2016, Hanover returned to the top five last fall and this season's predication marks the program's first spot in the top half of the league rankings since 2014.
Franklin, who has earned at least a share of the past eight conference championships, has been selected by the league's coaches as the favorite again in 2018. The Grizzlies picked up six first place votes and a conference-high 87 points, holding off Rose-Hulman for the top spot in the preseason poll. Rose-Hulman garnered the additional three first place votes, accumulating 84 total points. Both Franklin and Rose-Hulman have received national recognition as well, with each ranking in at least one of the national preseason polls.
Mount St. Joseph is predicted to finish third with 68 points, while Hanover follows closely behind with 65 points. Rounding out the top five is Manchester with 53 points. The remainder of the coaches' preseason poll is as followed: Bluffton (45), Defiance (32), Anderson (31) and Earlham (21).
The Panthers have finished no worse than their predicted ranking in each of coach Theobald's first two years at the helm. Theobald guided HC to its first .500 winning percentage in three seasons during his inaugural campaign in 2016 and the Blue and Red will be looking for their first conference winning season since 2012 this fall.
Hanover opens the regular season on the road with a trip to non-conference foe, Centre (Ky.) at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1. The Panthers home opener will come the following Saturday, Sept. 8, when they welcome Thomas More (Ky.).
The Blue and Red will then open HCAC play with back-to-back road contests at Bluffton (Sept. 22) and Anderson (Sept. 29) before welcoming Earlham for their conference home opener on Oct. 6, which is also the College's annual Homecoming date. Also of note, the other four teams joining HC in the 2018 preseason poll are slated as the final four opponents on the Panthers' schedule this fall.