Tony Adame looks at Kansas teams in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
No. 5 Baker
Coach: Mike Grossner, 11th season, 65-44
2013: 11-2, 8-1 HAAC
Outlook: The Wildcats are coming off the best season in school history. Baker won a share of its first HAAC title since 1993, notched a win in the NAIA playoffs and finished No. 5 in the final NAIA rankings, which is also where they find themselves ranked to begin 2014.
Offensively, Baker returns one of the top freshman in the country from last season in WR-K Clarence Clark, a player who was an All-HAAC kicker, athlete and second-team wide receiver. They also bring back their second, third and fourth leading rushers in Camren Tornenden, Scott Meyer and Adonis Powell.
On defense, the Wildcats are buoyed by the return of senior defensive end Andre Jolly, a 2012 NAIA All-American who played in five games last season due to injury.
Baker hosts 2013 HAAC co-champion and preseason favorite Missouri Valley on Nov. 15 in both teams’ regular-season finale.
Schedule: Sept. 6, at Ottawa, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, Sterling, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Evangel, 6 p.m.; Sept. 27, Graceland, 2 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Peru St., 2 p.m.; Oct. 11, Benedictine (at Arrowhead Stadium), 7 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Avila, 1 p.m.; Oct. 25, at MidAmerica Nazarene, 2 p.m.; Nov. 1, Culver-Stockton, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Central Methodist, 1 p.m.; Nov. 15, Missouri Valley, 1 p.m.
No. 11 Benedictine
Coach: Larry Wilcox, 34th season, 246-132
2013: 10-2, 8-1
Outlook: From the jump, Benedictine’s schedule looks like one of the toughest in the country, coming off their 2013 HAAC co-championship with Baker and Missouri Valley. The Ravens open with four ranked opponents in the first seven games — No. 14 Ottawa, No. 7 Missouri Valley, at No. 5 Baker and No. 24 Peru State.
The Ravens’ strength on offense will be up front, where they return four starters in David Stochlin, Hayden Smith, Rory Mount and Dom Carroli. Stochlin, a 6-foot-1, 310-pound senior, was an All-American pick last year.
Benedictine has qualified for the NAIA playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
Schedule: Saturday, at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.; Sept. 13, Ottawa, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Central Methodist, 6 p.m.; Sept. 27, Missouri Valley, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, Evangel, 1 p.m.; Oct. 11, at Baker, 1 p.m.; Oct. 18, Peru St., 1 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Graceland, 2 p.m.; Nov. 1, Avila, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, at MidAmerica Nazarene, 1 p.m.; Nov. 15, Culver-Stockton, 1 p.m.
Coach: Brian Willmer, first season
2013: 5-5, 4-5
Outlook: Former UCLA star linebacker and longtime Azusa Pacific assistant Brian Willmer takes over as coach, replacing former NFL quarterback Jonathan Quinn, who left to become the coach at a prep school in Tennessee. Quinn led the Pioneers to the NAIA semifinals in 2010 and earned NAIA playoff bids in four of his five seasons.
A big part of the offense’s success will rest on the shoulders of 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior quarterback Trent Hedlund, who started 9 of 10 games last year, throwing for 1,886 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. The defense will be hard-pressed to replace HAAC co-defensive player of the year and All-American linebacker Joe Camacho, who led the team with 151 tackles.
Schedule: Sept. 13, McPherson, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, Graceland, 6 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Culver-Stockton, 1 p.m.; Oct. 4, At Central Methodist, 1 p.m.; Oct. 11, Missouri Valley (at Arrowhead Stadium), 3 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Evangel, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 25, Baker, 2 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Peru St., 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Benedictine, 1 p.m.; Nov. 15, Avila, 1 p.m.