INDIANPOLIS, Ind. – The Hanover Panthers were picked to repeat as Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Champions announced Tuesday morning as part of the 2019 Preseason Poll voted on by the conference's head coaches.
The Panthers earned 60 points, including seven first place votes, placing them ahead of 2018 preseason favorite Franklin with 52 points. Mount St. Joseph rounded out the top three as they registered 51 points and the final first place vote.
Hanover claimed the 2018 HCAC crown after defeating area rival Franklin as part of the 88th annual Victory Bell Classic where the Panthers took down the Grizzlies, 23-20. The Blue and Red registered their first national playoff appearance since 2003.
Under head coach Matt Theobald, the 2018 HCAC Coach of the Year, the Panthers have exceled on both sides of the ball. The Blue and Red return a defense that finished among the league's best last season, holding conference lows in scoring defense (15.8 points per game) and total defense (281.8 yards per game). The Panthers will look to continue to dominate the defensive side of the ball as they return All-Conference selections Zikk Omoruyi (Palm Beach, Fla.), Kyle Treber (Mishawka, Ind.) and Dakota Manion (West Lafayette, Ind.).
On the offensive side of the ball, Hanover ranked among the league's best in total offense (4,463 total yards) and yards per game (405.7 ypg). The Blue and Red welcome back First Team All-Conference honorees Shawn Coane (Evansville, Ind.), Dylon Neff (Moores Hill, Ind.) and Carter Chastain (Paoli, Ind.).
The Panthers open the 2019 season with a pair of home contest welcoming Centre to Alumni Stadium on Sept. 7, followed by Adrian on Sept. 14.
Hanover opens HCAC action on Sept. 28 when they welcome the Bluffton Beavers to town.