Alma, Mich. - The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association's head football coaches have predicted the Alma College football team to finish seventh in the league this year, as the conference's preseason poll was released on Monday (August 19).
"I feel that it is motivation for our players and coaches to work hard," said Head Coach Jason Couch. "I enjoy being the underdog."
Hope College leads the poll with four first-place votes. The Flying Dutch finished second in the conference last season behind defending champion Trine University, which is tied for second with Albion in the preseason poll with two first-place votes each. Adrian College and Olivet College share the fourth spot with 30 overall points, and Kalamazoo College is sixth with four more points than the Scots. Finlandia rounds out the rankings in eighth.
The Scots arrived back on campus on Tuesday (August 13). They have just under three weeks before the season opener against Baldwin Wallace (OH).
"Camp has been great," said Couch. "I'm extremely proud of our returners. They have worked well with our new players and helped them learn the playbook. We were excited about this years' recruiting class and they did not disappoint, they came to camp ready to compete."
Seventy-six freshman join the team this year, and 84 returners are here to welcome them. Among those coming back are both quarterbacks that saw extended time: senior Mason Ippel (Jenison, Mich. / Jenison) and junior Ryan Stevens (Lowell, Mich. / Lowell). Both passers completed 50-percent of their passes; Ippel threw eight touchdowns while Stevens tossed four with no interceptions.
Also returning are running backs Steven Sowa (Allen Park, Mich. / St. Frances Cabrini) and Austin Spratling (Grand Rapids, Mich. / Wyoming Kelloggsville), receivers Chase Hinkle (Concord, Mich. / Concord) and Chase Krueger (Grand Rapids, Mich. / Forest Hills Eastern), and tight end Joseph Schaefer (Lowell, Mich. / Lowell). Second-team All-Conference senior center Dakota Jelinek (Montrose, Mich. / Montrose) anchors the offensive line.
Senior linebacker Zeke Ramirez (Zeeland, Mich. / Zeeland East High School) holds down the defense as the team's only 2018 First-Team All-Conference member. Also returning are senior defensive backs Max Kretzschmar (Marine City, Mich. / Marine City), Colin Smith (Westphalia, Mich. / Pewamo-Westphalia) and Michael Hallada (Lakeview, Mich. / Lakeview), as well as defensive lineman Jacob Wildenhaus (Jackson, Mich. / Lumen Christi).
"Our focus is based on our creed, K.I.L.T.: Kinship, Integrity, Love, and Tenacity," said Couch. "When the team plays with great passion and love for each other, special things happen."
The Scots open the season on Sept. 7 against Baldwin Wallace (OH). Its homecoming game is Sept. 21 against Rockford University (IL). Alma hosts defending MIAA Champion Trine on Oct. 12 and Kalamazoo on Oct. 26. The team will honor former student-athlete and veteran Chris O'Connor on Nov. 9 and close the season against Finlandia on Nov. 16.
1. Hope - 11 points (4 first-place votes)
T2. Albion - 14 points (2 first-place votes)
T2.Trine - 14 points (2 first-place votes)
T44 Adrian - 30 points
T4. Olivet - 30 points
6. Kalamazoo - 36 points
7. Alma - 40 points
8. Finlandia - 49 points