University of Dubuque football coach Stan Zweifel believes the Spartans can become perennial contenders in the Iowa Conference race. After winning the title in 2011 the Spartans finished in a tie for second last year. They enter this season with title hopes.

“I really think this is going to be a big year for us, and I think we’re going to have a chance to win the conference championship,” Zweifel says. He says they have the biggest class of returning players in the history of the school.

One of the keys for Dubuque this season will be winning the close games that slipped away last year. “There was some fantastic finishes in the conference last year and we lost the conference championship in double overtime,” Zweifel says. He says they are excited about turning the close games in their favor this season.

The offense is experienced but must replace three year starter Wyatt Hanus at quarterback. He says they have three returners and a transfer from Winona State who will compete for the position.

Scoring should not be a problem for the Spartans but Zweifel wants to see improvement from a defense that gave up just over 30 points per game in 2012. He says the one thing that stood out was the lack of stopping big plays and he says they need to cut down those big plays.

Dubuque opens September seventh with a visit to Wisconsin-LaCrosse.