SLIPPERY ROCK - The 2012 Lock Haven University football season is now officially under way.
Early Monday morning, Lock Haven head coach John Allen and players Skyler Wool and Ben Snyder made their way across the state for the annual PSAC Kickoff Luncheon at Slippery Rock University.
"We are really excited to get started with new season," said Allen. "The returners that I have talked to so far have all been working hard and I'm impressed with their focus and attention to details. You can tell just from talking to our players and coaches how excited they are for the year to begin. We can't wait to get back to work on the field and continue moving forward in the right direction."
As has been a long-standing tradition, one of the highlights of the event is the unveiling of the coaches poll in both the Eastern and Western Divisions.
In the West, four different teams received first-place votes as Indiana University of Pennsylvania led the way with three followed by California, Pa., and defending division champion Slippery Rock with two each. Mercyhurst, looking to rebound from a disappointing 2011 season, picked up the other first-place vote.
In terms of projected finish, California, Pa., and Indiana, Pa., were tied for the top, followed by Slippery Rock, Edinboro, Mercyhurst, Gannon, Clarion and Lock Haven.
After taking a look at the pre-season polls, Allen wasn't surprised that his Bald Eagles found themselves in the last spot.
"Until we win games, nothing has changed and that is where we are going to be," Allen said. "We will continue to be in that position for now and hopefully we can win some games and change some peoples minds next year."
Although some programs put some stock in the polls, Allen and his Bald Eagles don't seem to subscribe to that approach.
"It is a poll and nothing more than that," Allen said. "It is everybody's idea of what might happen but we all know that what matters is what happens once you get on the field and play a full season. We are looking forward to this year and we are excited about getting things going so that we can move into the next direction."
In the Western Division, the more things change the more they stay the same. California has been on top of the heap many times under coach John "Lucky" Luckhardt, and although Luckhardt is gone from the program, the Vulcans are still picked as one of the premier teams in the conference.
While the wealth was spread around in the West, the East saw only two teams receive first-place votes with Kutztown picking up five and Bloomsburg claiming the other three.
Following the Golden Bears and Huskies in the division are LIU Post (formerly CW Post), West Chester, Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, Millersville and Cheyney.
Bright spots for the Bald Eagles as they prepare for the 2012 campaign are Brandon Rader's 942 rushing yards last season which were the most in one season since former Williamsport Millionaire standout Jamie Allen ran for 962 in 1999. Brader's 253 carries last season were also a school record.
Lock Haven has also increased its total offense in each of the last two seasons while on the other side of the ball, the Bald Eagles return nine of their top ten tacklers from the 2011 season.
In addition to the polls, another of the highlights of the luncheon is the announcing of the annual Heaslip Award for outstanding service as a member of the media to the PSAC. This year the award went to John Dudley of the Erie Times News for his many years of covering the conference in various sports.