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WEEK ONE PREVIEW | Grizzlies Head to Illinois to Kick Off 2019 Season

Photo courtesy of Derek Cox
 
The Opening Kick
The 2019 season kicks off on what promises to be a beautiful Saturday night in Lisle, Ill. when the Franklin Grizzlies meet with the Benedictine Eagles in a rematch of last year's season-opening contest. 
 
The two programs clashed for the first time ever last September in Franklin in a night game that was all Grizzlies from the early going. Franklin surged out to a huge lead, scoring touchdowns on all five first half drives en route to a 55-38 triumph at Faught Stadium
 
About Benedictine
Jim Schroeder takes over as the head coach of the Eagles for the 2019 season and beyond following a four-year stint as the head man at nearby Rockford College. No stranger to the program, Schroeder was the Benedictine defensive coordinator from 2005-14.
 
After going 3-7 a year ago with a 3-4 record in NACC play, the Eagles were picked to finish fifth in the league by the conference coaches in their annual pre-season rankings. 
 
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Jarnigan is set to take over as the team's lead signal caller. As a freshman, he appeared in six games under center, going 50-for-66 for 493 yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. 
 
Behind him are a pair of senior running backs in Josh Williams and Troy Menna. Williams saw action against FC in last year's opener, rushing for 28 yards on six carries. Also back for the Eagles at wideout is the player that had the most catches and yards for Benedictine in last year's game, senior Brandon Adams, who hauled in six passes for 69 yards in last year's meeting.
 
2018 Recap
For the ninth straight season, the Grizzlies earned at least a share of the HCAC title, going 8-2 on the season with a 7-1 record in conference play to split the league championship with Hanover and Mount St. Joseph. A total of 14 Grizzlies were recognized for their accomplishments on the field with all-conference accolades. Highlighting the list of winners was senior wide receiver Brad Bonomini, who was crowned the HCAC's Offensive MVP.
 
Nice to See You Again
The Grizzlies welcome back plenty of experience from the 2018 squad, with 31 letter-winners and 12 total starters set to line up this fall. Among the top returners for the Grizzlies are 2018 First Team All-HCAC selections QB Braden Smith, RB Jacob Earl, OL Matthew Anderson and OL Tre Akers.
 
NCAA Leaders
For the second year in a row, Franklin finished the season as Division III's most efficient offense, leading the country with 558.3 yards per game. The Grizzlies also ranked ninth in the nation in scoring offense, racking up 43.5 points per game. 
 
Backfield in Motion
The combination of senior quarterback Smith and senior tailbacks Earl, Austin Grunden and Payton Healy give the Grizzlies a wealth of experience and talent in the backfield. Smith threw for 3,226 yards and 28 touchdowns a year ago while running for eight more. Earl rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 18 touchdowns while Grunden and Healy combined for 527 yards and 10 scores on the ground. 
 
New Look Receiving Corps
For the second year in a row, there will be a new crop of starting wideouts in the opening game following the graduation of Bonomini, Ben Fleet and Ryker Stout, who started all 10 games a year ago. Senior Joey Siderewicz finished third on the team with 25 grabs a year ago while fellow senior Cole Daab had 156 yards and a touchdown. Both are expected to start with junior Brock Finkbiner joining the team's three-wideout set.
 
Youth Movement
This year's edition of the Grizzlies features a whopping 51 newcomers, 48 of which enter as freshmen. In total, 75 members of the team are either freshmen or sophomores as game one approaches.
 
Schedule Outlook
Franklin will play a trio of non-conference games before jumping into HCAC play. After this week's game, the Grizzlies will step onto the Faught Stadium turf for the first time this year for a meeting with Albion. Non-conference play concludes with a showdown in two weeks against Bluffton, in a game that was added to compensate for the loss of an opponent on the schedule.
 
HCAC play starts on Sept. 28 at home against league co-champions Mt. St. Joseph. Franklin also hostst Anderson, Manchester and Defiance in league play. Conference road games will be at Rose-Hulman, Bluffton and Hanover.
 
HCAC Dominance
Since the 2007 season, the Grizzlies have been dominant against the rest of the HCAC, going 88-6 over that span while claiming nine of the last 12 outright conference championships. 
 
Opening Week Around the HCAC
All eight league teams kick off the season this weekend. The schedule is as follows:
 
Trine at Manchester, Thursday at 7:30 PM
Bluffton at Wooster, Saturday at 1:00 PM
Geneva at Mount St. Joseph, Saturday at 1:30 PM
Centre at Hanover, Saturday at 1:30 PM
North Park at Anderson, Saturday at 6:00 PM
Defiance at Albion, Saturday at 6:00 PM
#2 Mount Union at Rose-Hulman, Saturday at 7:00 PM
 
Follow the Action Live
Saturday's game will be broadcast live by the Benedictine athletic department and live stats will be hosted through the Eagles' website. Links to both are avialable at the top of this page. In-game updates will be provided on our Twitter feed, @FCGrizAthletics.