Cumberland football was picked fourth in the Mid-South Conference Bluegrass Division in a vote of league coaches released Thursday by the conference office.
First-year head coach Tim Mathis returns 11 starters and 31 letterwinners from last season’s club that finished 7-4 overall, including All-Conference performers Kimlee North and Denarius Toliver.
North rushed for 515 yards on just 72 carries, 7.2 yards-per-attempt, with eight touchdowns, posting 453 yards and all eight TDs over the last five games of the year. He registered 154 yards and two TDs versus Bethel University and added 133 yards and two scores at Lindsey Wilson.
Toliver made 20 catches for 481 yards and five touchdowns, including five receptions for 213 yards and two scores at Georgetown College. He also caught three balls for 87 yards and one TD at Campbellsville University.
Senior quarterback Dezmon Huntley accounted for 2,430 yards of total offense and 25 touchdowns last season. He rushed 105 times for 700 yards and 10 TDs while passing for 1,730 yards and 15 scores. Cumberland averaged 39.7 points per game in 2017.
The Phoenix must replace seven starters on defense, including All-MSC honorees DeAnthony Patrick, Donovan Norfleet and Cody Carr, who combined with another senior Alex Campagne, tallied 227 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 16 pass breakups and 14 quarterback hurries last season. The defense recorded 22 sacks and 26 takeaways in 2017.
Lindsey Wilson posted five first-place votes and 35 total points for first-place in the Bluegrass Division, followed by Georgetown College with two first-place votes and 32 points. Campbellsville University was next with 26 points, then Cumberland with 19 and Bethel University with 18 points. Kentucky Christian (11 points) and Cincinnati Christian (6 points) rounded out the poll.
Cumberland players reported to campus Wednesday and will hold their first practice Friday in preparation for the season opener Aug. 25 at Bluefield College. The Phoenix will begin the home schedule Sept. 1 against Union College at 1:30 p.m. at Nokes-Lasater Field.