Blue Jays Picked Fourth In UMAC Preseason Coaches Poll

Blue Jays Picked Fourth In UMAC Preseason Coaches Poll

ST. PAUL, MN, 8/24/21---The long-awaited return of Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) football is just around the corner. Following a fall without competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a fresh start waits for the seven conference football members with eyes on the prize for a conference title. 

Martin Luther College was tabbed to win its third-consecutive UMAC football championship with 33 points and four first-place votes in the UMAC Preseason Coaches' Poll announced Tuesday. The back-to-back champion Knights edged Greenville University by just one point as the Panthers tallied 32 points and two first-place nods. 

The path to victory will take a different journey this season for the eventual victors – the conference officially welcomes Finlandia University as an associate member while the College of St. Scholastica and Iowa Wesleyan University have departed. The UMAC season will see teams play a six-game regular season schedule with the conference champion earning the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA championship. 

The Knights haven't lost a conference football game since 2017 and will look to remain undefeated returning a plethora of talent on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Martin Luther will rely on the run game with 2019 UMAC Most Valuable Offensive Player Joshuah Kren returning. The senior will start behind All-UMAC honoree linemen Andew Owczarzak and Carrington Cunningham who helped the Knights average more than 300 rushing yards per game in 2019  and the shortened 2021 spring season. Defensively, Ben Riegsecker and Aiden Holien are back following Second Team All-UMAC outings in 2019. 

Greenville finished second in 2019 with just one loss to the Knights for a 7-1 season. The Panthers' improvement from 3-5 in 2018 earned Robbie Schomaker the Coach of the Year nod. This year, Schomaker's squad should continue to challenge for a regular season title with the return of 2019 First Team running back Paul Garrett and lineman Sam Fitch. Garrett accumulated 1,191 yards as a rookie behind Fitch and a line that allowed a strong team rushing total of 2,105 yards. 

While Martin Luther may be a slight favorite, the University of Northwestern was tabbed for third with 25 points and collected one first-place vote. Westminster College was picked fourth behind the Eagles with 24 points. Northwestern brings back several players who should help the Eagles contend for a title. Senior Caleb Sieben will help lead the offense and special teams efforts following a First Team honor in 2019. Damon Clapper had a strong spring season earning All-Region honors. Second Teamer George Obitz is also returning to lead the defensive line. 

The Blue Jays should also be in the mix as they bring back a strong group of players that had good spring seasons. Wyatt Ellis collected 1,820 passing yards in the shortened season and will look to lead an offense that ranked third in time of possession in Division III this spring. Justin Scales was twice UMAC Player of the Week defensively this spring, while Tim Branneky returns as one of the top kickers in the UMAC following a 2019 All-UMAC season.

The poll rounded out with the University of Minnesota Morris taking fifth with 15 points, Crown College with 12 points and newcomer Finlandia with six points. Minnesota Morris returns veteran wide receiver Branden Carlson who was All-UMAC Second Team in 2019 to help lead the offense, while senior defenders Connor Oldenburg and Matt Menth will lead the team's defensive efforts. 

Crown's new head coach Anthony Franz will look to All-UMAC Second Team performers Avory Caruthers and Cole Mistretta to bring the Storm to new heights after an improved 2019 season. Finlandia also welcomes a new coach in Mike DuFrane who hopes senior receiver Josh Eve can help usher the Lions into a new era of football in the UMAC. 

The regular season gets underway with non-conference competition on Saturday, Sept. 4 before conference action begins Saturday, Oct. 2. Each UMAC team will have six regular season games and one bye week. The regular season wraps up Saturday, Nov. 13. 

2021 UMAC Football Preseason Coaches' Poll





Martin Luther

33 (4)



32 (2)



25 (1)





Minnesota Morris