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The Lakeland College football team was picked to finish second in the Northern Athletics Conference this fall, according to the preseason football coaches' poll released today.
A year after the Muskies won the NAC with a 6-1 conference record, they received 54 points, including three first-place votes. Concordia University Chicago was tabbed to win the NAC, receiving 57 points and three first-place votes, and rival Concordia, Wis., was picked third with 50 points.
With the top three teams separated by only seven points, and fourth-place Wisconsin Lutheran receiving two first-place votes, Lakeland fourth-year head coach Kevin Doherty said it's clear the league's coaches believe the NAC race is wide open this fall.
As for his team being picked second, Doherty said, "The fact that we received three first-place votes shows that we are getting respect, but also gives us the motivation to get better and improve to that elite level."
After winning the conference title last year, the Muskies lost in the first round of the NCAA postseason playoffs to eventual national champion UW-Whitewater. The Muskies, who finished 6-5 overall last year, will build on that experience as they chase another trip to the playoffs.
Lakeland has a wealth of talent returning this fall to build around including 14 starters and 11 All-NAC selections, including four first-team picks: junior running back Jeremy Williams (Zion, Ill.), senior wide receiver Roberto Flores (Milwaukee, Wis.), senior offensive lineman Aaron Kraemer (Oshkosh, Wis.), and senior defensive back Keith Woodson (Evanston, Ill.)
The Muskies will open preseason camp this Sunday, Aug. 15, and get to work on defending their crown. Doherty said his team understands that nothing is guaranteed.
"We control our own destiny, and if we can do the little things well and have other pieces fall into place, we believe this could be a successful season," Doherty said. "We have experienced players who understand no one is going to hand us anything. We have to work hard to achieve the goals we have set for this fall, and that begins this Sunday."
Below is the 2010 NAC Football Preseason Coaches' Poll. To read the conference release about the poll, visit http://northernac.org/releases/2010/2010_08/20100811a.html
2010 NAC Preseason Poll
1. Concordia Chicago (3), 57
2. Lakeland (3), 54
3. Concordia Wisconsin, 50
4. Wisconsin Lutheran (2), 38
5. Aurora, 33
6. Benedictine, 32
7. Rockford, 14
8. Maranatha, 10
*first place votes in parentheses