Millsaps chosen as preseason favorite to win 2009 SCAC Football Championship

Millsaps chosen as preseason favorite to win 2009 SCAC Football Championship

SUWANEE, Ga. – For the third consecutive year Millsaps College was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship. In the annual preseason vote by the league’s head coaches, Millsaps garnered four of seven first place votes and received 44 points to headline the poll.

Millsaps will have a different look in 2009 as the Majors lost 20 seniors, 12 of which were starters last season. Millsaps returns five starters on offense including 2008 SCAC Co-Newcomer-of-the-Year running back Shane Bowser. The biggest loss for the Majors is trying to replace three-time SCAC Offensive Player of the Year and All-American quarterback Juan Joseph, who sported a 26-7 overall record as a starter in three seasons.

Defensively, the Majors return senior linebackers Lee Klein, Sam Herman, Jaren Bowser and Miles Sager. Returning up front are seniors David Dale, Mason Burrell and Kyle Hughes who combined for 64 tackles and 3.5 sacks a year ago.

Millsaps also returns special team standouts in kicker Taylor Russolino (named to Fred Mitchell Award watch list), senior punter Will Lawrimore (school record 77-yard punt against Belhaven), and SCAC Special Teams Player of the Year in Michael Galatas (averaged 23.6 yards per kick return).

Millsaps ( Preseason #26) will look to make its fourth ever appearance in the NCAA playoffs. However, Trinity University and DePauw University should figure into the equation. The three teams were seperated by a mere five points for the top three spots.

Trinity (USA Today Division III Preseason #20) was narrowly picked as the preseason number two team with 41 points and two first-place votes. The Tigers, who are aiming to win their 15th SCAC championship in the past 17 years, return the senior runningback tandem of Chris Baer (All-SCAC First Team) and Al Furlow (Honorable Mention All-SCAC). Baer rushed for 840 yards in nine games while Furlow averaged 5.9 yards per carry (486 on 83 carries).

DePauw (USA Today Division III preseason #19) rounded out the top three with 39 points and one first-place vote. The Tigers finished 8-2 (5-2 SCAC) last season and return 17 starters and 41 letterwinners including senior quarterback Spud Dick. Dick is eighth all-time in SCAC history with 6,527 passing yards and needs 2,768 yards to tie Juan Joseph’s career mark. Interim head coach Robby Long takes over after Matt Walker resigned prior to preseason camp.

Rounding out the 2009 predicted order of finish: Centre College was tabbed fourth with 27 points and Austin College picked up 19 points to come in fifth. Rhodes College followed with 14 points and Sewanee-University of the South finished in seventh with 12 points. Birmingham-Southern College, a Division III provisional member, was not considered in the pre-season conference poll.

On the defenseive side of the ball, Centre returns three of four starters from its secondary. Led by second team All-SCAC selections Zach Sloan and Sean Swallen, the Colonel secondary helped pave the way for a defense that was No. 2 in the league in total defense and No. 3 against the pass. Sloan enters the season tied for second all-time in school history with 14 career interceptions, while Swallen was third on the team in total tackles with 77.

For the third straight season Austin College led the SCAC in rushing offense as the ‘Roos averaged 216.7 yards per game during the 2008 campaign. Returning to again lead the ground attack is senior running back Ross Hasten, a 1st Team All-SCAC selection a year ago. Hasten rushed for 826 yards and 6.3 yards per attempt and scored six touchdowns last year. He also led the SCAC in all-purpose yards. The ‘Roos also return First Team All-SCAC senior cornerback Matt Finke, who tallied 41 tackles while recovering three fumbles and intercepting two passes.

The toughest challenge for Rhodes will be replacing arguably two of the best defensive players in the SCAC as the Lynx graduated back-to-back SCAC Defensive-Player-of-the-Year winners in Desmond Hendricks and Mason Mosby. Junior linebacker Andrew Meier, who started four games in ’08 at linebacker before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season, looks to rebound in 2009. In four games Meier averaged 9.3 tackles per game. Senior running back Josh McMurray returns and was a main stay in the backfield for the Lynx in 2008, rushing for 553 yards while averaging a team best 5.7 yards per carry.

Sewanee returns nine defensive starters including preseason All-American defensive back Chalankis Brown. Brown recorded 57 tackles last year to go along with his seven interceptions and three blocked kicks. Sophomore linebacker Alfonza Knight returns after tallying a team leading 59 tackles a season ago. The offense welcomes back eight starters including two-year starter Patrick Shelton at quarterback. Shelton was second team All-SCAC last year and led the team with 1,418 yards of total offense. The Tigers look to improve upon last season’s 1-6 conference mark in 2009.

Birmingham-Southern enters the 2009 season with a number of key returners at the skill positions including junior quarterback Joe Thigpen, junior tailback Walter Arrington, and wide receivers Tay Walker, a senior, and David Langston, a junior. Arrington was voted First-Team All-Conference last season after leading the Panthers with 599 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Thigpen was voted Second-Team All-Conference, leading the offense with 1,079 passing yards while completeing 77-of-133 with five interceptions and eight touchdowns.

Schedule highlights include the season opening “Backyard Brawl” as Millsaps travels to Mississippi College on Sept. 5. The Majors opened last season with a 42-6 win over the visiting and 25th ranked Choctaws. The 2009 game will mark the ninth meeting between the schools since the rivalry was renewed in 2000 after a 40 year hiatus.

Sewanee travels to Rhodes on Nov. 14 in the annual Orgill Trophy game. The game marks the 56th meeting for the
Orgill Trophy as the series is tied 27-27-1. Overall, Sewanee leads the series 41-33-3 which dates back to 1899.

Highlighting the end of the season is the annual meeting between DePauw and Wabash (116th meeting) Nov. 14 for the Monon Bell. The game will be nationally televised for the fourth consecutive year on the high definition network HDNet. DePauw won last year’s meeting as the Tigers beat the No. 2 ranked Little Giants on the road 36-14. The win evened the all-time series at 53-53-9 while DePauw holds a 37-34-6 lead in games played for the Monon Bell.

For the complete 2009 SCAC Football Prospectus, click here.


2009 SCAC Predicted Order of Finish
       2008 Record
Conf. / Overall
    No. of votes
1 Millsaps College Majors 44 (4) 7-0 11-1
2 Trinity University Tigers 41 (2) 5-2 8-2
3 DePauw University Tigers 39 (1) 5-2 8-2
4 Centre College Colonels 27 5-2 7-3
5 Austin College Kangaroos 19 3-4 5-5
6 Rhodes College Lynx 14 2-5 4-6
7 Sewanee-University of the South Tigers 12 1-6 2-8

*Birimingham-Southern, a Division III provisional member, was not considered
in the pre-season conference rankings.

Note: First-place votes (in parentheses) are worth seven points, second-place
worth six, on down to seventh-place votes being worth one.