ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Western Illinois landed three players on the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason team, as announced by the league office on Monday (July 29). That is the most to represent Western on the preseason team since 2010.
Coming off a 3-8 season, first-year head coach Bob Nielson and the Leathernecks were picked to finish ninth out of the 10 teams. The preseason poll and preseason teams were voted on by the league’s head coaches, sports information directors and select media members.
Senior offensive lineman Jimmy Holtschlag (Quincy/Notre Dame), junior defensive back Martinez Davis (Madisonville, KY/Air Force Prep) and sophomore linebacker J.J. Raffelson (Lake Zurich/Lake Zurich) were voted to the preseason team.
Holtschlag enters his final year as a two-time Honorable Mention All-MVFC selection, and a two-time First Team Academic All-MVFC pick. He started all 11 games last year at right tackle, and enters this year with 34 career games played.
Davis earned Second Team All-MVFC accolades following last year. He led the squad and finished 10th nationally in interceptions (5/0.45 per game). Two of his five interceptions were returned for a touchdown. Davis recorded 38 tackles and broke up five passes.
Raffelson was a finalist last year for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the nation’s top freshman. His 9.55 tackles per game ranked him 32nd nationally, and he finished with the third-most tackles of all freshmen in the country. An Honorable Mention All-MVFC pick following the 2012 campaign, Raffelson was also selected as the program’s Co-Most Valuable Player. In five of his 11 games played he recorded 10 or more tackles.
Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State received all 39 first-place votes, totaling 390 points. South Dakota State was second with 323 points, followed by Northern Iowa (269), Illinois State (264) and Youngstown State (253) rounding out the top five. Indiana State (197), Southern Illinois (188), Missorui State (123), Western (77) and South Dakota (61) rounded out the poll.
Western opens the season at Hanson Field on Thursday, August 29th, against Hampton. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tickets are on sale by calling (309) 298-1190 or online at GoLeathernecks.com.
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