IUP picked to repeat as PSAC division champ

Bill West
| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 10:39 p.m.

Blinders served Indiana (Pa.) linebacker Alex Berdahl well last fall, so they've remained in place since.

Berdahl, a senior and the team's top tackler a year ago, said he and his teammates ignored the 2012 preseason Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference coaches poll that tabbed IUP as a co-favorite in the West division. The Crimson Hawks also ignored their No. 1 overall and scoring defense national rankings had as they proceeded toward a PSAC championship and a Division II playoff berth.

“At the end, we didn't really notice it until our coach told us in the spring,” said Berdahl, a first-team All-PSAC West selection who had 103 tackles. “But we try to not let that distract us.”

No surprise then that Berdahl seemed dismissive at Monday's PSAC West media day at Slippery Rock about the preseason coaches poll, which identified IUP as the favorite to win the West division title. The Crimson Hawks received seven of the division's eight first-place votes. Mercyhurst, which took second in the West poll, grabbed the other vote, and defending PSAC runner-up Shippensburg took first in the East division poll.

“It does not matter to us at all,” Berdahl said. “We don't really look at it at all.”

Berdahl is one of seven starters returning from a defensive unit that allowed 257.9 yards and 12.5 points per game, both the best marks in Division II. IUP, which defeated Shippensburg to claim the overall PSAC title last season, also has eight starters back on offense.

“Last year was in the past — we all realize that,” Berdahl said. “We definitely learned a lot from that experience. But it's a new year. Everything is different. So we just try to forget about that. We try to move on to this year.”

At the opposite end of the preseason West division poll was Seton Hill, the PSAC's newcomer. The Griffins, who left the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, hope the change might help snap a 13-game losing streak that dates to late 2011.

First-year coach Isaac Collins acknowledged the pros and the cons of the move to the PSAC. Most notable among the pros: The new conference gave Seton Hill a recruiting bump, he said. But on the opposite side, the Griffins compete in one of Division II's deeper conferences.

“We're hoping that (opponents) just look at the (2012) record,” Collins said. “If they keep looking at the record, maybe we'll be able to sneak up on a few folks. But for our kids internally, as I shared with them at our first team meeting, this team is not 0-11. That was last year. These kids have an opportunity to write their legacy and set the table for what Seton Hill football can be. … I think Seton Hill can someday, hopefully, be voted No. 1 in the coaches poll for the Western PSAC.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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