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The Lakeland College football team was picked to finish sixth in the Northern Athletics Conference this fall, according to the preseason football coaches' poll released Monday.
The Muskies, who look to rebound from a disappointing 2010 when they finished fifth in the NAC with a 3-4 record, received 30 points in this year's poll. Benedictine was tabbed to win the NAC, receiving 58 points, including three first-place votes. Aurora was picked second, receiving 55 points and three first-place votes.
After last season, Lakeland head football coach Kevin Doherty believes anyone has a shot to win the NAC every year, no matter where they are ranked preseason. As for his team being picked sixth, Doherty said, "Other than Benedictine and Aurora, we all lost a lot of talented players, and every team has some big question marks in camp. I don't like to get wrapped up in the preseason hype. I've told our guys they need to go out and play hard and the results will take care of themselves."
Unlike last season, the Muskies have a lot of questions entering camp this season. They remain strong on defense with the return of their linebackers, led by Inside Wisconsin Sports preseason Division III All-State junior Bruce Romagnoli (Iron Mountain, Mich.) Lakeland also returns depth on the defensive line and secondary with seniors Jason Bruggnik (Plymouth, Wis.) and Tony Faller (Oostburg, Wis.) Faller was named Consensus Draft Services Division III All-American Honorable Mention.
On offensive, Lakeland and new offensive coordinator Peter Hahm return a strong offensive line and welcome running back Adam Miller (Marian, Wis.) back from a broken ankle suffered early last season. Also returning are wide receivers Logan Hughley (Oshkosh, Wis.) and Justin Laack (Sheboygan Falls, Wis.) The biggest question mark is quarterback as seven QBs reported to preseason camp, leaving the coaches with some big decisions to make before their first contest on Saturday, September 3, at Carroll College.
"We have 90 guys in camp this season," Doherty said. "I told our guys not to worry about where they are and focus on getting themselves better. We have a solid group of talent coming in this season and we have a chance to make some noise. I'm excited for the 2011 season and to get the ball rolling."
To read the conference release about the poll, visit http://northernac.org/sports/fball/2011-12/releases/2011081516481f.