Tony Adame looks at the Kansas teams in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
Coach: Michael Grossner, 10th season, 54-42
2012: 8-3, 7-2 HAAC
Outlook: Baker opens up against back-to-back KCAC opponents, hosting No. 18 Ottawa then traveling to Saint Mary. Former five-star recruit and USC transfer Dillon Baxter is back for his senior season, and had an underwhelming first season at Baker, rushing for 869 yards and seven touchdowns while earning an in-season suspension for a game after falling behind academically. Despite Baxter’s struggles, the Wildcats reeled off four victories to end the season and earn a spot in the NAIA playoffs.
Senior quarterback and Kansas transfer Jake Morse threw for more than 2,000 yards for Baker in 2011 but he only threw for 1,024 yards last season in seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Baker has an All-American back on the defensive line with 6-foot-1, 245-pound junior Andre Jolly, one of the best pass rushers in the nation. Jolly racked up 16 sacks last year and 22 tackles for loss, breaking the school’s single-season sack record.
|Sept. 7||Ottawa||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Saint Mary||1:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Benedictine||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||Avila||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||MidAmerica Nazarene||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Culver-Stockton||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||Central Methodist||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Missouri Valley||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||Evangel||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at Graceland||2 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Peru State||1 p.m.|
Coach: Larry Wilcox, 33rd season, 236-130
2012: 7-4, 5-4
Outlook: Wilcox is fourth among on the NAIA’s career wins list and has led the Ravens to five HAAC titles and 12 NAIA playoff appearances since 1979. Last season, Benedictine started off 4-0 and climbed to No. 6 in the national rankings before struggling down the stretch and finishing 7-4. The Ravens have a load of talent back, with 10 returners who earned some type of All-HAAC recognition last season. Defensively, Benedictine has room for improvement after giving up more than 25 points per game.
The offense will be sharp again after averaging 37.8 points in 2012. Running back Cameron Fore (1,029 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Bill Noonan (2,010 yards, 24 TDs) are back. Noonan improved drastically on his accuracy in 2012, bringing his interception total down from 16, and he’s thrown for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns each of the last two seasons.
|Aug. 31||Briar Cliff||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Friends||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Baker||1 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Peru State||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||Graceland||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||at Avila||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||MidAmerica Nazarene||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Culver-Stockton||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||Central Methodist||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||at Missouri Valley||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||at Evangel||1:30 p.m.|
Coach: Jonathan Quinn, fifth season, 40-8
2012: 8-3, 8-1
Outlook: MidAmerica has a brutal schedule, taking on four ranked opponents in road games: No. 17 Tabor, No. 2 Missouri Valley, No. 22 Evangel and No. 15 Baker. The Pioneers are coached by former NFL quarterback Jonathan Quinn, who has led his team to a 40-8 record in just four seasons. The Pioneers have reached the NAIA playoffs for six consecutive seasons and received two first-place votes and were picked second in the HAAC preseason poll behind reigning league champion Missouri Valley.
RB Greg Gates, a senior who rushed for 1,455 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and senior wide receiver LaDon Hudson, who led MidAmerica in receiving yards (487) and receiving TDs (11), return to lead the offense. Senior safety JD Wood and senior linebacker Joe Camacho headline the returners on defense.
|Sept. 14||at Tabor||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Missouri Valley||6 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||at Evangel||6 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at Baker||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||Peru State||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 19||at Benedictine||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 26||at Avila||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 2||Graceland||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 9||Culver-Stockton||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 16||Central Methodist||1 p.m.|