DECATUR — The Millikin football team had its first winning season in eight years in coach Dan Gritti's second season, and will return several of the top players from that team.
The Division III football world is taking notice.
With the kickoff of the Millikin football season seven weeks away, the Big Blue were among the NCAA Division III teams receiving votes in the D3Football.com Top 25 preseason poll.
In 2017, Millikin went 7-3, posting its best season since 2003, and had its most College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) wins since 2001, going 5-3 in conference games.
From that team, Millikin brings back all its top offensive threats, including quarterback Nicco Stepina and receiver Jordan Smith. Defensively, linebackers Nikia Averitte and Matt Brown lead a group that includes returning players at every level.
Millikin will begin practice in early August leading up to its season opener on Aug. 31 at Hope College in Holland, Michi. — the Big Blue’s only non-conference game of the year. With Washington University-St. Louis joining the CCIW for football, the Big Blue will now play nine conference games per season.
Millikin opens the home portion of its schedule on Sept. 15, hosting North Park at 1 p.m.
Millikin received three votes in the poll based on voting by a panel of 25 coaches, sports information directors and media members from across the country.
Defending NCAA Division III Champion Mount Union is the preseason No. 1. Three CCIW schools were ranked in the preseason Top 25. North Central is ranked seventh, Wheaton is ranked 18th and Illinois Wesleyan is ranked 21st. No other CCIW teams received votes in the poll.