Marian Central graduate Gavin Dineen plays defensive tackle on the best defense in the Pioneer Football League.
The Drake University senior from Algonquin had a career-high 35 tackles and three sacks a year ago.
During his college career, the Bulldogs have won 75% of their conference games.
Yet there’s one major goal Dineen and his teammates have on their to-do list this fall.
“The most important thing would be a conference championship,” Dineen said. “We’ve been really close since I got here. This year, everyone is really locked in on breaking through.”
San Diego has had a lock on the top spot with three consecutive 8-0 seasons in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision Pioneer league.
“Obviously, San Diego has been on quite a run the past few years,” he said. “You’ve got to put a focus on them. But that game (Nov. 2 in California) won’t matter if we don’t win the next one.”
Defense will matter greatly for the Bulldogs, who ranked ninth nationally last year in both points (19.1) and yards (296) allowed a game.
The Bulldogs led the conference in eight other categories, including sacks (29) and interceptions (17).
“It’s a testament to a bunch of guys punching the clock and coming to work every day,” Dineen said. “We decided we weren’t going to accept anything less than our best effort every single day.”
Dineen and two of his defensive teammates were honored July 29 by Pioneer coaches with spots on the preseason all-conference team.
After breaking a hand as a sophomore, Dineen shined as a junior by helping Drake allow only 2.7 yards a rush and igniting the team’s pass rush.
“It’s just knowing your assignment, staying in your gap, holding on for dear life against those double teams and stopping the run,” Dineen said of playing tackle. “But getting sacks is the most fun.”
Dineen will try to rack up sacks this season for new head coach Todd Stepsis, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator for the past five years.
“I’ve been with him since my freshman year,” Dineen said. “We had it good. We’ve been around him, and it’s been awesome. He’s pretty intense, and he demands the respect of a room.”
Preseason honors for Peete, Alberts: Johnsburg grad Alex Peete and Huntley grad Jon Alberts were chosen this week to the D3Football.com preseason All-America teams.
Peete, a junior running back, was named to the first team by the website after he ran for 1,368 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago for Wisconsin-Whitewater.
He finished last season in the top 10 nationally in rushing touchdowns, points scored and total touchdowns. He also had seven games of more than 100 yards rushing while helping the Warhawks to a 13-1 record, the NCAA semifinals and an unbeaten Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record of 7-0.
The Warhawks host Dubuque on Sept. 7 in their season opener.
Alberts was chosen as D3Football.com’s third-team kicker. The senior at Central College in Pella, Iowa, booted a school-record 55-yard field goal last season, which was the longest in D-III. He was 8 for 9 on field goals last season and has made 22 of his 25 career kicks.
Last season, Alberts was 5 for 5 from within 40 yards.
The Dutch open the season Sept. 7 when they host Northwestern-St. Paul.
UCF earning votes: Central Florida’s women's volleyball team was the fourth-highest team among others receiving votes this week when the American Volleyball Coaches Association unveiled its preseason Top 25 poll.
The Knights earned their first Top 25 ranking a year ago, thanks in part to the contributions of Cary-Grove grads – and sisters – Erin Olson and Amber Olson, who shared setting duties. Erin (6.44) and Amber (5.88) led the team in assists a game during a 27-4 season, which included winning the American Athletic Conference title with an 18-0 record and an NCAA tournament berth.
Erin Olson, a senior, and her sophomore sister will open the season Aug. 30 at the Ole Miss Rebel Invitational.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.