TIFFIN -- In his first year as head coach of the Heidelberg University football team, Scott Donaldson faces a tough test right out of the gate. Four of the first five opponents are ranked in the D3football.com Preseason Top 25 poll, which was released this week. All three contests in September pit the unranked Student Princes, 5-5 a year ago, against ranked foes.
"I'm not sure there is anyone with a tougher schedule to open up the 2016 season," said Donaldson, who was promoted to head coach in December. "We relish the opportunity to line up against such quality competition early ... It will help us stay focused in the preseason."
The Donaldson era begins with a home game against No. 17 SUNY Cortland. A season ago, the Red Dragons used a Hail Mary touchdown on the final play of the game to snatch a victory away from HU. The win propelled Cortland to a 9-3 season. The Red Dragons and Student Princes open up the 2016 season with a noon game at Hoernemann Stadium on Sept. 3. The contest marks the annual Faculty Appreciation Day celebration.
The Sept. 17 home matchup with No. 22 Ohio Northern is slated for a 7 p.m. start -- marking the first night game on campus in school history. ONU beat The Berg in 2015, 34-20, their first Bendekovic Bowl win since the trophy series began in 2011. Parents & Family Weekend and Fellows Day festivities will be held in conjunction with the OAC opener.
September ends with a road game at No. 18 John Carroll. In 16 games at JCU, Heidelberg is just 2-14 -- with the last win coming in 2011. The then No. 10 Blue Streaks snuck out of Tiffin with a 23-16 win a year ago. The game in University Heights is slated for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
October starts with the 2016 Homecoming Weekend celebration, highlighted by a 1:30 p.m. game with Muskingum on the first. Heidelberg beat the Muskies a year ago, 52-7, and have won six straight in the series.
Defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Mt. Union awaits the Tricolor on Oct. 8. Kickoff with the Purple Raiders is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The Student Princes hit US 23 on Oct. 15, traveling to Westerville for a 7 p.m. game at Otterbein. The last time HU played a night game at Otterbein, All-American Cartel Brooks rushed for a then-school record 337 yards and five touchdowns in a 35-17 win. A season ago, Heidelberg beat the Cardinals 49-31 in quarterback Tyler Stoyle's first start. Otterbein holds a 13-10 edge in the Rhine River Cup rivalry, but HU has won the last five contests
The Tricolor returns to Riesen Field at Hoernemann Stadium for a Week 7 tussle with Marietta. Last year, the Heidelberg offense scored an astounding 63 first half points on nine possessions and waltzed to a 63-28 win -- the eighth straight over Marietta. Slated for a 1:30 p.m. start, the game with the Pioneers is Scholar Athlete Recognition day.
October wraps up with a game at Wilmington at 1:30 p.m. on the 29th. Heidelberg recorded the 201st shutout in program history in last year's 44-0 drubbing of the Quakers. The Student Princes have won the last seven in the series, outscoring Wilmington 321-61.
The home slate finishes with Baldwin Wallace on Nov. 5 at 1:30 p.m. The game against the Yellow Jackets marks the annual Local Community Business Day celebration. BW beat the Student Princes in Tiffin last year, a 44-31 loss that closed out a disappointing season for HU.
The 2016 regular season concludes with a 1:30 p.m. game at Capital on Nov. 12. Heidelberg has averaged 54 points per game in the last five contests with the Crudasers -- all wins for the Tricolor.
Each game can be heard live on WTTF AM-1600 and on WTTF.com. Live video streams of all home games and most of the road games will be available at no charge. For the latest on Heidelberg football, follow @BergAthletics on Twitter.