SALINA — First up to speak at Wednesday’s KCAC Media Day, Bethany football coach Jamie Cruce dropped a bombshell on the rest of the league that could reverberate from now until the teams finish play in December.
The Swedes, presumably one of the favorites in the KCAC, won’t have two-time All-American running back and 2011 KCAC offensive player of the year Junior Allen for his senior season.
“This is not a legal issue, this is not a team discipline issue,” Cruce said. “It’s a personal issue. We knew about a week-and-a-half ago. (Allen) is still enrolled in school but we can’t say much more. I wish I could but I can’t.”
Allen led the KCAC in rushing the last two seasons and finished second in the nation last year with 1,880 all-purpose yards.
The news came as a shock to the other nine coaches in attendance, including Ottawa’s Kent Kessinger, who had the Swedes tabbed as the league’s preseason favorite. Ottawa, the defending KCAC champion, was picked to finish first in both the media and coaches polls on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge surprise … (Allen) has been tearing up defenses in the league the last two years,” Kessinger said. “(Allen) is a tremendous running back. We were all shocked.”
The Braves lose two-time All-American wide receiver/returner Clarence Anderson, but bring back Shane Gimzo, an all-purpose player who finished with 1,297 all-purpose yards and led the KCAC with 19 touchdowns in 2011. Gimzo will play quarterback, wide receiver and running back for the Braves this year.
“Shane is as tough as they come,” Kessinger said. “And he’s cool under pressure. I don’t feel like there’s any situation we can put him in where he’ll get flustered.”
Bethany was picked second in the coaches poll and third by the media. Friends was picked second by the media and third in the coaches poll. The Falcons, who haven’t won a KCAC title since 2008, return one of their best defenses under ninth-year coach Monty Lewis, including 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end Dexter Davis, the 2011 KCAC defensive player of the year who led the league with 13 sacks and 24 1/2 tackles for loss last year.
“Dexter is a leader in that you can point to him and say ‘look at how he does things, look at how he works’ and the other guys fall in line,” Lewis said. “He’s not a vocal guy. He lets his play and how hard he works do the talking for him.”
Third-year starting quarterback Jayme Bristow has struggled mightily the last two seasons, but is the starter headed into fall camp. Lewis said backups Derek Racette and Aaron Hansen continue to improve.
“Racette and Hansen are breathing right down Jayme’s neck,” Lewis said. “Neither one of those guys wants to sit on the sideline.”
Bethel was picked last in both polls. The Threshers were represented by athletic director and assistant coach Kent Allshouse in Salina after third-year coach Travis Graber resigned last week.
Allshouse said an interim coach would be named in the next week, and the school could move forward with a national search this fall.
“I think, with Travis, it was frustration over a couple of different things,” Allshouse said. “But Dr. (Perry) White, our president, is committed to moving forward and finding the best candidate. We’ve already heard from some coaches and hopefully we can find the right person to lead this program.”