WRIGHTSVILLE, Pa. -- Dickinson College is predicted to win its fourth straight Centennial Football Conference championship.
In a poll of the conference head coaches released during the organization's preseason outing at Cool Creek Country Club yesterday, Dickinson drew five first-place votes and finished with 61 of a possible 64 points.
Johns Hopkins was picked for second place, squeezing out Gettysburg, 43. Western Maryland (40) was fourth, followed by Swarthmore (38), Franklin & Marshall (34), Muhlenberg (16) and Ursinus (11).
Western Maryland (6-3-1, 5-2), conference doormat for the previous five seasons, went into its final game last season with a chance to win the title, but lost to Johns Hopkins, 31-21. And Hopkins (5-4-1, 4-2-1), which had shared last place with the Green Terrors the previous two seasons, posted its first winning conference record since 1985.
While these two are intent on proving that last year was just the start of something good rather than a one-year flash-in-the-pads, Franklin & Marshall is bent on showing that last year's 3-7 record was a fluke, the school's first losing season since 1970. Its 2-5 CFC log had more losses than the previous five seasons combined.
Such is the improved balance in the league that Gettysburg (two) and Hopkins (one) also drew first-place votes and 11 points separated the second and sixth entries.
A year ago, Dickinson allowed an average of fewer than 10 points, and a similar effort will be needed to stay in contention until a relatively inexperienced offense (three returning starters) catches up with a defense that returns nine starters.
To be solid challengers, Johns Hopkins and Western Maryland must resolve unsettled quarterback situations. At Hopkins, the choice will be between junior John Guglielmo and sophomore Scott Cade, who split time last year and who bring different strengths to the offense. Western Maryland has four players vying for the spot four-year starter Mike Hamm relinquished when he graduated in May -- senior Todd Leskoski, sophomores Rich Tedesco and Ken Williams and freshman Jody Goane.