(Posted August 6, 2008)

HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Centennial Conference's Football Media Day begins with each head coach coming up to a podium to talk about his team. The catch is that Centennial Executive Director Steve Ulrich calls the coaches up in reverse order of finish in the conference's preseason poll.

So Juniata College head coach Darrell Alt gritted his teeth and delivered a somewhat defiant message when he was the first coach called up to address the gathering of print, broadcast and web media, on Wednesday at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pa.

"Obviously, I'd like to be going later at this event," said Alt.

And after praising the Centennial Conference as a league with outstanding top-to-bottom strength, one in which every team could expect a battle every Saturday, he threw down a challenge -- mostly to himself and his own team.

"I think you've underestimated our ability to improve," Alt said.

Juniata was picked to finish ninth when the full preseason poll was unveiled, receiving a total of 18 points. The Eagles trailed eighth place McDaniel College with 29 points, and Franklin & Marshall in seventh with 52 points.

"I'm very optimistic after seeing our guys in the weight room this past spring, and I'm also excited to see them after the summer break," said Alt. "In talking to guys this summer and reading their e-mails, I'm feeling a different presence around our football team right now."

Muhlenberg College was picked atop the poll with 126 points, including 14 first-place votes. The Mules were followed by Dickinson College with 98 points, with Ursinus College finishing third with 90 points. Johns Hopkins University earned two first-place votes and received 86 points, followed by Moravian College (77 points) and Gettysburg College (72 points). The sixth-place Bullets also received two first-place votes.

Muhlenberg is ranked among the top ten in NCAA Division III by The Sporting News (seventh) and USA Today Sports Weekly (ninth), and 22nd in Lindy's.

Juniata is coming off a 1-9 campaign in 2007, with a 0-8 mark in the Centennial Conference. The Eagles return four starters on offense and eight on defense, along with all their kick and punt returners. Juniata will welcome nearly 40 newcomers to the program when preseason camp opens on Thursday, Aug. 14.

Juniata opens the season on September 6 at home against Allegheny College.

The complete poll is as follows:


1. Muhlenberg (14) - 126
2. Dickinson - 98
3. Ursinus - 90
4. Johns Hopkins (2) - 86
5. Moravian - 77
6. Gettysburg (2) - 72
7. Franklin & Marshall - 52
8. McDaniel - 29
9. Juniata - 18


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.