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updated: 9/2/2014 11:22 PM

High expectations again for North Central College

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By Kyle Thele
kthele@dailyherald.com

Many of the names may be different, but the results are expected to be more of the same in the CCIW this year.

The Cardinals are coming off of their eighth straight conference football championship, and the CCIW preseason coaches poll suggests North Central again will finish at the top. If the Cardinals live up to expectations they would set the record for most consecutive conference championships in CCIW history. North Central is returning a team that made it to the Division III national semifinals last year.

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The Cardinals would likely be the unanimous favorites if not for a rule preventing coaches from voting for their own team. The lone other vote went to Wheaton College, selected second overall. The Thunder will be aided by preseason All-America offensive lineman Spencer Clark.

Wheaton finished 2014 in third place and outside of the playoffs.

Possibly the most intriguing team isn't expected to finish in the top half of the conference. However, new coach Ron Planz thinks his Elmhurst team can surprise some people.

"I really feel like we have jelled and we have some good team chemistry," Planz said. "I think it will reap benefits for us, but it's a process, it's not a quick fix."

Part of that process has been streamlining the Bluejays' practices. Planz said the team's practices are short but filled with as many reps as possible. With that, Planz said, he tries to make the practices as fun as possible.

Planz is the third Elmhurst coach in as many years, but he said he has tried to make it clear he has no ambition to go anywhere.

"I grew up in Bensenville so I wasn't taking this job to do something else. It was to come home. It was a job I wanted," Planz said. "Elmhurst has historically been a great place for a head coaching job, and then you move on to bigger and better things. I view this as an end job. I want to coach football and raise my family and Elmhurst provides that."

Last year's preseason poll was nearly identical to the end of season standings. Similarly, this year's preseason poll is only a slight change from the end of last year.

The 2014 season kicks off for all CCIW teams Saturday.

Benedictine:

The Eagles have been selected by the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference coaches to finish second in 2014. Benedictine only trails last year's conference champion Concordia Wisconsin in votes and received two first-place votes.

Coming off of a 7-3 season and third-place finish, the Eagles will begin their season Saturday at home against Central College. Conference play kicks off Oct. 11.

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