IUP football takes favorite’s role

The IUP football is back on top of the PSAC Western Division preseason poll.

The Crimson Hawks received seven of the eight possible first-place votes to finish at the top of the list when the PSAC released its preseason polls online Friday. It marks the sixth time in the past seven years — and third in a row — IUP has been slotted first.

Last year, the team was picked first in the preseason poll and captured the PSAC championship. The Crimson Hawks advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the 18th time as well. They beat West Chester, 24-7, for the PSAC title and notched a 44-10 win over the Golden Rams to open the national playoffs. They topped Assumption, 27-22, for the Super Region One championship, but fell to West Florida, 27-17, in the national semifinals

“It really doesn’t (mean anything). It’s really all based on what happened last year and, when we start practice on Monday, last year is done and over with,” IUP coach Paul Tortorella said. “It’s a whole new season, new team, new players. It’s nice to be respected, but, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s not unexpected but it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

Cal was picked second and earned the other first-place votes from the conference’s head coaches, while Slippery Rock was third. Edinboro, Gannon, Mercyhurst, Clarion and Seton Hill rounded out the PSAC West poll.

In the seven-team Eastern Division, West Chester received six of the seven first place votes to claim the top spot in that poll. Shippensburg was slotted second, while Kutztown earned a first-place vote and wound up third. Bloomsburg was fourth, while East Stroudsburg, Millersville and Lock Haven rounded out the PSAC East poll.

With 13 starters and 35 letterwinners back, optimism is high for IUP. Players report to campus Sunday and will take part in conditioning tests Monday. Practices begin the following day.

“Everybody is excited about the season. Like I say, it’s hard to get to the top, but it’s even harder to sustain it. So, let’s continue to get better and do more,” Tortorella said. “I’m excited and interested to see guys that have been good players continue to get better and become great players and not just be happy with what they did and where we’re at.”

The Crimson Hawks begin the season with two of their first three games on the road. The team opens with consecutive Thursday night games at Ashland (Aug. 30) and at home against East Stroudsburg (Sept. 6). The team visits Lock Haven (Sept. 15) and comes back home to battle Mercyhurst (Sept. 22). It travels to Cal for the 10th Annual Coal Bowl on Sept. 29 and returns to take on Slippery Rock on Oct. 6 for homecoming. The team welcomes Clarion (Oct. 13), travels to Gannon (Oct. 20), comes back home to play Seton Hill (Oct. 27) and visits Edinboro (Nov. 3).

The team wraps up the regular season on Nov. 10 with a home game against Shippensburg. That finale could change if IUP wins the West and plays in the conference championship game.

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