Kicking off the season with top rank

Minnesota State football snuck into the top ten teams across division II play after the American Football Coaches Association finished their yearly preseason poll. 

The Mavs finished their regular season 10-3 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs where they were defeated by the Colorado School of Mines in a nail-biting 45-48 loss. The School of Mines are now ranked second overall while the Mavs hold the ninth spot. The only other team ranked in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference is Bemidji State who holds the 11th position. The Mavs also are ranked seventh in the Preseason Poll. 

On both sides of the ball, there are some returning players to look out for. Junior quarterback Hayden Ekern was named MSU’s Offensive Player to Watch while senior defensive back Trey Vaval was named MSU’s Defensive Player to Watch. 

Last season’s efforts helped name Ekern to D2CCA All-American Second Team honors.

He threw for 1,837 yards with 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 333 yards while having eight touchdowns on the ground. In the loss versus the School of Mines, Ekern put together 377 yards with four touchdowns. This was done against one of the best ranked defensive teams in the nation. 

On special teams and defense, Vaval put together his own resume. He was named to the All-NSIC First Team Special Teams for being a return specialist. He also earned the title of All-NSIC Second Second Team Defense. 

Vaval set the single season school punt return record with 439 yards. He also had 38 tackles throughout the season with one sack and five pass deflections. He was also placed in the D2CCA All-American Second Team Honors, along with Ekern, for his efforts. 

In addition to these two returning, the team’s Head Coach Todd Hoffner is also coming back for his 13th season. Hoffner led the team to eight playoff appearances including two appearances in the NCAA Championship game in 2014 and 2019. Hoffners overall record with the team is 122-30. 

Currently, the Mavs are undergoing their last week of practice before they hit the road to Sioux Falls for their first game of the year. Sioux Falls will host the Mavs for their seventh time. Mankato currently dominates the record book when traveling to Sioux Falls as they hold an undefeated record of 6-0 over them. Along with that streak, Mankato also bested the Wildcats in their previous outing at home. In their last game they won their high-scoring game 38-24. The Mavs scored 21 of their points in the first quarter. 

The kickoff to the season will take place Thursday, August 31 at 6 p.m. located at Bo Young Field.

Header Photo: A top rank in the American Football Coaches Association preseason poll puts some lofty expectations on the 2023 Mavs football team, but with lots of returning talent, they should prove their worth this season. (File Photo)

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