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The Journal Gazette

Monday, April 10, 2017 8:50 pm

Saint Francis No. 1 in NAIA spring football poll


The Saint Francis football team, coming off its first national championship, is ranked No. 1 in the spring NAIA coaches’ poll, which was unveiled Monday.

The Cougars got all the first-place votes.

The preseason rankings will be announced in August.

It’s the fifth time in Cougars history that they’ve been ranked No. 1. They weren’t atop the rankings last season until they defeated Baker (Kansas) 38-17 in the national championship game in Dayton Beach, Florida.

Coach Kevin Donley is the NAIA’s leader in career victories with 302 heading into the 2017 opener Sept. 2 at Jamestown, North Dakota, and that will be the first meeting between the teams.

Among those returning for Saint Francis are Eric Hemmelgarn, who ranked No. 1 in the NAIA in tackles for loss (25.5) and earned 63 tackles, and Seth Green, who had 1,367 total rushing yards.

Baker is ranked second for a ninth consecutive poll.

At No. 3 is Reinhardt (Georgia), followed by Eastern Oregon and Saint Francis-rival Marian.