NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College football team was slated to finish tied for fourth in the Northeast-10 Conference standings, according to the 2012 Football Coaches Preseason Poll.
The Warriors, who opened up preseason camp to officially kick off the 2012 campaign last week, shared the fourth-place slot with Bentley, as both squads earned a total of 41 total points in the poll. Merrimack trailed defending-champion New Haven (63 points – seven first-place votes), second-ranked Southern Connecticut (53 points – one first-place vote) and third-place AIC (50 points – one first-place vote).
After opening camp last week, fifth-year head coach John Perry and his coaching staff have been hard at work preparing for the team's season opener – and arguably their toughest opponent of the season – against preseason favorite and No. 13 nationally ranked New Haven on the road on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m.
Rounding out the nine-team field, Assumption was predicted to finish in sixth with 29 points, while Stonehill (24 points), Saint Anselm (15) and Pace (8) were slotted in seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, to conclude the poll.
Merrimack's high-octane offense, one that led the conference averaging 474.5 yards per game last season, will be led by three seniors, quarterback Joe Clancy (Newburyport, Mass.), preseason All-American running back Jimon Hill (North Chicago, Ill.) and preseason All-American wide receiver Isaiah Voegeli (Hyannis, Mass.), along with fellow preseason All-American senior tackle Zach Gilbert (Salem, Mass.). That group propelled the team to an average of 39.7 points per game, a mark that trailed only New Haven on the season.
On defense, the Warriors return a solid core of starters from last year's team, including preseason All-Americans Michael Wiggins (Dolton, Ill.)and Artis Holt (Baltimore, Md.). The former will look to build on his numbers from his junior season of 66 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks, while the latter returns to a secondary that caused 13 interceptions last season.
All teams will be playing for a chance to compete in the first-ever NE-10 Football Championship Game on Saturday, Nov. 10. The football championship will become the 23rd conference championship and provide an opportunity for an additional 175 student-athletes to experience a Northeast-10 postseason contest.
Following the completion of the regular season, the top seed will play host to the second seed in the conference championship game on the weekend immediately preceding the start of the NCAA Division II Championship. Additionally, the team that finishes third during the regular season will play host to the team that finishes sixth, the fourth-place finisher will host the seventh-place finisher, and the fifth-place squad will take on the eighth-place team.
Merrimack opens the season at New Haven on Saturday, Sept. 1, with kickoff set for 1 p.m.