There was little separation among the top teams in the American Rivers Conference last football season.

Coaches in the conference seem to think this year will shape up similarly, based on their annual preseason poll.

A-R-C coaches voted Wartburg No. 1 with the release of their annual poll on Thursday, followed by Central and Dubuque in a tie for second. The Knights are reigning conference champions, finishing 7-1 in league play last season on the way to the NCAA Division III playoffs. They earned seven of 10 possible first-place votes in the poll with 63 points overall among conference coaches.

Right behind Wartburg were the Dutch, Spartans and Simpson, who all finished 6-2 in A-R-C play. Central received two first place votes and Dubuque one in the poll to earn 53 points.

“The 2019 football season shapes up in the A-R-C to be a very interesting year,” Spartans coach Stan Zweifel said in a press release. “Wartburg is surely the favorite to be the conference champion. Coe, Simpson and Central are teams that will also have a shot at the title. UD needs to play well early to be in the conference race at the end of the season.”

The Storm were the fourth-rated team followed by Coe, Loras, Nebraska Wesleyan, Luther and Buena Vista at the bottom. The Duhawks finished sixth in the conference last year at 3-5 and have earned the same rank in the preseason with 29 points.

“We are excited for the 2019 season and are anxious to continue to build and improve the Duhawk football program,” Loras coach Steve Helminiak said in the press release. “We return many players that had quality snaps and experience from last season and are looking forward to competing in the always competitive American Rivers Conference.”

Both Dubuque-based programs kick off their seasons on Sept. 7. The Spartans travel to No. 4 UW-Whitewater to open the season while the Duhawks will be at UW-Eau Claire.

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