High expectations for Emporia State football in 2017

NCAA

EMPORIA, Kan. (KSNW) – After finishing second in the league four of the last five years, Emporia State has been picked to finish in that spot in the MIAA Football Coaches and Media Preseason Polls. It is the highest preseason spot for the Hornets in the poll’s history. On the national level, the Hornets have been ranked in the top four by most publications.

Over the last five years Emporia State has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the MIAA and across Division II. They The Hornets have gone 45-16 since 2012 with seven of the wins over teams in the top 25 at the time. They have won four post season games and played in six during that time and last season played host to the first NCAA Playoff game in Welch Stadium history. Emporia State has gone 28-10 at home over the last seven seasons.

Over the last two years the Hornets are 22-5 with four of the losses to the undefeated national champions. Emporia State is set to return 13 starters, seven on offense and six on defense, along with all of their specialists.

The returners are led by preseason All-American Braxton Marstall at quarterback. A pick by at least one publication to be the National Offensive Player of the Year, Marstall threw for 3,599 yards and 31 touchdowns while adding 515 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground last season. He is ranked third on the Emporia State single season chart in passing yards and touchdown passes, and is second in total offense.  His 481 passing yards against Minn.-Duluth in the playoffs is the fifth best single game total in MIAA history.

Marstall may be the headliner, but he is far from the only weapon returning for the Hornets this season. He will have three of his top four receivers back from last year in Justin Brown, Morris Williams and Louis Dailey.  Brown caught 73 passes for 738 yards and eight touchdowns while Williams and Dailey combined for 72 receptions for 916 yards and nine touchdowns.

Landon Nault has led the Hornets in rushing each of the last two years. He had 651 yards last season after totalling 727 yards, thanks in large part to a 179 yard performance at Henderson State in the second round of the NCAA Playoffs, as a sophomore in 2015.

Six players with starting experience are set to return on the offensive line, with three of them starting in the playoffs last year. Jake Warehime at center, and Dane Riley and Estevan Arana tackle all started both playoff games last season. Warehime has started 27 straight games at center while Riley has 13 straight starts. Arana started eight of 11 games as a redshirt freshman last season.  Thomas O’Grady and Dylan Hall are the early leaders at the guard positions. As juniors O’Grady had four starts while Hall had one last year, after each played in all 14 games as sophomores in 2015. Stephen Williams returns to action after sitting out last season. He started seven games as a true freshman in 2015.

Since 2012, the Hornets are the only team in the country to force at least 25 turnovers each season. Emporia State will need to replace four of their top five tacklers from last season, but do return their second leading tackler from last year in middle linebacker Gabe Cleveland along with all-region corner back AJ West.

Tre’Vaun Ammons had a team high seven sacks to rank fourth in the MIAA last season. He was also credited with nine quarterback hurries, five pass break ups and three forced fumbles.  Walker had six sacks and nine tackles for loss with a season high two sacks against UMD in the playoffs.

On special teams the Hornets return their kicker, punter, and deep snapper for their fourth year together.  Kicker Austin Morton was second in the MIAA in kick scoring, going 55 of 57 on PATs and hitting 14 field goals last season.  He holds the Emporia State and NCAA single game playoff record with five made field goals at Henderson State in 2015 and is second all-time in made field goals at Emporia State with 46 makes. An AP Little All-American at kicker as a sophomore, his 22 made field goals are second in MIAA history to former Missouri Western Griffon Greg Zuerlein’s 23 makes in 2011. His 122 points scored is an Emporia State school record and ranks third in MIAA single season history. Justin Marcha has handled the kick-offs and punting for Emporia State. He averaged 59.2 yards on 82 kick-offs with 17 touchbacks and had a 40.0 yard average on 70 punts last season.   Reid Buckingham has been the deep snapper since he first set foot on campus four years ago and is the only non-quarterback to wear a red jersey during practice.

2017 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Northwest Missouri (10)    120

1. Northwest Missouri (9)    118

2. Emporia State (2)    108

3. Central Missouri (1)    106

4. Pittsburg State    88

5. Fort Hays State    83

6. Washburn    71

7. Missouri Western    58

8. Central Oklahoma    51

9. Lindenwood    37

10. Northeastern State    31

11. Missouri Southern    24

12. Nebraska-Kearney    17

2017 MIAA Preseason Media Poll

1. Northwest Missouri (36)    464

2. Emporia State (3)    421

3. Central Missouri    383

4. Pittsburg State    347

5. Fort Hays State    316

6. Washburn    262

7. Central Oklahoma    227

8. Missouri Western    215

9. Lindenwood    145

10. Missouri Southern    108

11. Northeastern State    102

12. Nebraska-Kearney    52

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