Orediggers, Mountaineers Headline Five RMAC Schools Among Preseason National Polls

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The wait for the 2022 NCAA Division II football season is over as games commence Thursday, Sept. 1. Of the 10 football programs within the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, six will compete on Thursday, while three more take the field on Saturday, Sept. 3. Heading into the 2022 season, Colorado School of Mines and Western Colorado are ranked in both the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and D2 Football preseason polls. Colorado State University Pueblo, Chadron State and Colorado Mesa enter the 2022 campaign receiving votes in the AFCA poll.

The Orediggers enter the year ranked No. 3 in the D2 Football poll and No. 4 in the AFCA poll and return a majority of last year’s squad. Running back and 2021 Harlon Hill finalist, Michael Zeman, is one of many returning weapons for the Orediggers’ offense and was recently named to the D2 Football Elite 100 Watch List as a second-team honoree. Bolstering the offensive line for Mines this season is All-American center Matt Armendariz who, along with Zeman and defensive back Mason Pierce, was also named to the D2 Football Elite 100 Watch List. Quarterback John Matocha and defensive lineman Zach Hester round out the Orediggers’ five selections on the D2 Football Elite 100 list, pushing Mines to five selections and tying the program for the most honorees in the nation. Mines’ season opens Thursday, Sept. 1, on the road against No. 5/5 Grand Valley State. Kickoff against the Lakers is slated for 5 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. ET, inside Lubbers Stadium in Allendale, Mich.

Western Colorado also jumps into the nation’s top 25 in both preseason polls while earning one honoree among the D2 Football Elite 100 Watch List. The Mountaineers are tabbed No. 15 in the D2 Football preseason poll and No. 17 in the AFCA preseason poll and will be led by redshirt senior running back and Elite 100 selection, Josh Cummings. Cummings will be joined in the backfield by seasoned quarterback Connor Desch and the pair will be provided protection by redshirt senior center Clayton Martin and his offensive line unit. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers return reigning RMAC Defensive Freshman of the Year Anthony Johnston to the line in addition to defensive back Tim Mullin. Western Colorado kicks off its season Saturday on the road against West Texas A&M. Kickoff against the Buffs is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. CT, inside Bain-Schaeffer Buffalo Stadium in Canyon, Texas.

CSU Pueblo enters the year receiving seven votes in the AFCA preseason poll and ranked second in the RMAC preseason poll. The ThunderWolves have the ingredients of a successful team entering the 2022 campaign, including veteran experience, urgency and chips on their shoulders. Offensive lineman Elijah Reed earns a spot on the D2 Football Elite 100 Watch List, while quarterback Steven Croell, linebacker Max Gonzales and defensive lineman Trey Botts headline the Pack’s 2022 RMAC Players to Watch. CSU Pueblo’s season opens Saturday on the road against No. 24 Midwestern State University. Kickoff against the Mustangs is scheduled for 5 p.m. MT, 6 p.m. CT, at Memorial Stadium in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Chadron State received one vote on the AFCA poll as the Eagles enter the season with an opportunity to make some noise within the RMAC. CSC was billed fifth on the RMAC Preseason Football Poll but dives into the year with a defensive unit that ranked third in the nation, first in the RMAC, in the red zone with a .567 success percentage in 2021. Bobby Peele returns for his graduate season as a defensive back, joining junior linebacker Joey Geil and sophomore running back Jeydon Cox on the 2022 RMAC Players to Watch list. The Eagles will be tested early with their season-opener on the road against No. 7 Angelo State in a 6 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. CT, kickoff inside 1st Community Credit Union Field at LeGrand Stadium in San Angelo, Texas.

Colorado Mesa rounds out the RMAC’s teams acknowledged among the preseason national polls after receiving one vote in the AFCA rankings. The Mavericks will look to be contenders in the 2022 season after earning the No. 4 spot in the RMAC Preseason Poll. Dagan Rienks was recognized on the D2 Football Elite 100 Watch List and joins quarterback Karst Hunter, defensive end Dirion Hutchins and sophomore linebacker Kaden Stewart on the RMAC Players to Watch list. The Mavericks’ season also begins on the road Thursday evening against William Jewell College at 6 p.m. MT, 7 p.m. CT, inside Greene Stadium in Liberty, Mo.

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