KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The NAIA released the Football Preseason Top 25 Coaches' Poll on Monday afternoon and the Raven football team was seven points short of earning a preseason ranking.
After going 7-4 last season and earning a No. 23-ranking in the Spring Poll back on April 10, the Raven football team dropped out of the Top 25 to start the season as they earned 23 points to fall into the other receiving votes category with as the second team just outside the ranking.
In all, four teams from the Heart of America Athletic Conference enter the season ranked inside the Top 25 with two schools representing each division in the Heart. Baker University and Missouri Valley College are ranked No. 2 and No. 12 out of the Heart South while Grand View (Iowa) University and William Penn University are ranked No. 9 and No. 23 out of the Heart North.
Benedictine opens up the season on Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. against No. 12 Missouri Valley as the Ravens-Vikings meeting will be showcased as the Heart Game of the Week broadcast locally on KSMO and nationally streamed on ESPN3.
Single-game tickets are already available for the season-opening with Missouri Valley on O'Malley Field as the football program also be holding its annual Football Alumni Day. On-line tickets for the season are now available at www.tinyurl.com/BenedictineTickets. To purchase your tickets, just search for the games you'd like to select and follow the instructions to complete your purchase.
The Ravens will play three of the four Heart teams at home this season. The Ravens host Baker at 1 p.m. on Sept. 23 as part of Family Weekend and then host Grand View at 1 p.m. on Nov. 4 for Senior Day. The other remaining home games on the schedule include Evangel University on Sept. 2 and Culver-Stockton College on Oct. 21 as part of Homecoming Weekend.
Benedictine returns 54 letterman from last season with 12 starters returning as well.
Ejay Johnson, an all-conference selection last season, returns to anchors the Ravens ground game where he rushed for 826 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In addition to Johnson on the offensive side of the ball, all-conference offensive lineman Garrett Bader also returns to help guide the offense. All-conference selection and leading tackler Chandler Staley returns in addition to multi-year starter Tyler Thrasher to give the Ravens leadership on the defensive side of the ball. On special teams, the Ravens return both punter Sebastian Harris and kicker Derek Rodgers. Harris set a new single-season record for punt average last season at 42.9 per punt while Rodgers converted 35 of 40 PATs and five field goals.