MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The LaGrange football team was picked fourth in the 2016 USA South preseason coaches poll presented at the conference's annual media day at Huntingdon College.
The Panthers are starting their third season under head coach Matt Mumme. They were 2-7 last season and 2-4 in conference play. Mumme welcomes back 18 seniors and 16 starters.
"2016 is off to a great start as our staff did a tremendous job recruiting with 70 incoming newcomers to go with 68 returning players," said Mumme. "The key word for us is growth as repetition grows success. We have the largest number of juniors and seniors with 32 total."
A trio of wide receivers lead the senior class. Ervens Oge is the school career leader in receptions and receiving yards. Marsalis Jackson is the career leader with 21 touchdowns. Josh Hardrick is third and fourth respectively in receptions and receiving yards.
Junior quarterback Connor Blair threw for 2,644 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015. Senior defensive back Brandon Penn is a two-time USA South All-Conference selection and the school career leader in interceptions.
Mumme spoke of the team dedicating the 2016 season to nine-year old cancer patient Gracie Atkinson.
"Gracie has been a ray of sunshine for our coaches and players," Mumme said. "The team has watched Gracie battle her illness and drawn inspiration from her."
Defending champion Huntingdon was picked in the preseason poll to repeat again in 2016. Huntingdon received seven of eight first place votes and 49 total points to place first. Following behind was Maryville College which garnered the final first place vote and 43
In third place was N.C. Wesleyan College as it collected 36 points while the Panthers, in fourth place, totaled 26 points. Methodist ranked fifth with 24 points as Averett University collected 22 points to place sixth. Rounding out the poll were Ferrum College with 15 points and Greensboro College with nine points.
The 2016 USA South football schedule kicks off on Friday, Sept. 2 as N.C. Wesleyan takes on Stevenson in non-conference play. The remaining USA South teams begin their seasons with non-league action the following day.
2016 USA South Coaches' Preseason Poll
Rank Institution (1st Place Votes) Pts.
1. Huntingdon (7) 49
2. Maryville (1) 43
3. N.C. Wesleyan 36
4. LaGrange 26
5. Methodist 24
6. Averett 22
7. Ferrum 15
8. Greensboro 9