A look at KCAC football

08/20/2014 5:00 AM

08/20/2014 10:00 AM

Tony Adame looks at the KCAC and gives his predicted order of finish:

1. Sterling (ranked 15th)

Coach: Andy Lambert, 11th season, 87-88

2013: 9-3, 8-1

Outlook: The Warriors, coming off the first KCAC title in school history, return one of the best players in the NAIA in senior Antonio Bray. Bray racked up 2,352 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns last season on his way to KCAC special teams player of the year and an All-American kick returner.

Quarterback Reggie Langford also returns after showing his dual-threat capabilities one year ago, rushing for 1,144 yards and nine touchdowns and passing for 1,521 yards and 19 touchdowns. Wide receiver Denton Hudspeth and offensive lineman Zach Beims were preseason All-KCAC picks along with Bray and Langford.

Sterling’s season trajectory will be decided in the first month as they face three ranked opponents in a row to end September.

Schedule: Sept. 6, Concordia, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Baker, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Friends, p.m.; Sept. 27, at Tabor, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, Bethany, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Ottawa, 1 p.m.; Oct. 25, Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, McPherson, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Southwestern, 1:30 p.m; Nov. 15, Kansas Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.

2. Friends (19)

Coach: Monty Lewis, 11th season, 77-36

2013: 8-3, 7-2

Outlook: The Falcons haven’t won a KCAC title since 2008, and really haven’t been in the hunt for one since then, despite consistently finishing in the top four teams in the conference. This season, Lewis seems to have an assembled a team that’s not heavy on stars, but definitely heavy on depth.

The Falcons have four offensive players on the preseason All-KCAC team – fullback Cameron Brandon, wide receiver Chris Allen, and offensive linemen Jacob Allan and DJ Crager. They also have four preseason picks on defense: lineman Mason Pauly and DBs Derek Racette, Sequente Marks and Carlos Cox. Cox (5-11, 180), a senior, has already started to generate buzz among NFL teams.

Racette, a Hutchinson Trinity product, averaged 43.5 yards per punt last season and is one of the elite punters in the NAIA.

Schedule: Sept. 6, at Doane, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Peru State, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, Sterling, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Southwestern, 6 p.m.; Oct. 4, Kansas Wesleyan, 3 p.m.; Oct. 11, at McPherson, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 25, Bethany, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m.

3. Ottawa (14)

Coach: Kent Kessinger, 11th season, 66-42

2013: 8-4, 7-2

Outlook: Ottawa boasts the reigning KCAC defensive player of the year in senior defensive end Deron Bruce, an Olathe native who led the NAIA in tackles for loss (28.5) and finished fifth in the nation with 13 sacks. Bruce, a second-team All-American, led the Braves with 101 tackles, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Ottawa opens with back-to-back games against ranked opponents, hosting No. 5 Baker on Sept. 6, then traveling to No. 11 Benedictine for the second year of the KCAC-HAAC challenge.

Schedule: Sept. 6, Baker, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Benedictine, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, Bethany, 6 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 4, McPherson, 6 p.m.; Oct. 11, Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Southwestern, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Kansas Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, Friends, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, at Tabor, 1:30 p.m.

4. Tabor (8)

Coach: Mike Gardner, fifth season, 25-18

2013: 10-3, 7-2

Outlook: Tabor had a breakthough season last year, picking up its first NAIA playoff win since 2005, defeating Benedictine before losing to eventual national champion Grand View in the next round. The Bluejays accomplished all of this with three starting quarterbacks.

All-KCAC offensive lineman Jess Croley returns, as does preseason All-KCAC defensive lineman Dylan Delk and linebacker Ben Gardner.

Schedule: Sept. 6, Nebraska Wesleyan, 2 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Missouri Valley, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 27, Sterling, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Southwestern, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, at Kansas Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, Friends, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 25, McPherson, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Bethany, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.

5. Southwestern

Coach: Ken Crandall, eighth season, 24-49

2013: 5-6, 4-5

Outlook: Crandall has yet to guide the Moundbuilders to a winning record in seven seasons. Last year’s 5-6 record matched Crandall’s 2011 squad as the best marks under his tenure, going 5-6, and Southwestern has a solid nucleus to build around with preseason All-KCAC picks C.J. Marple (TE), Matt Thompson (OL) and Paul Mata (LB).

Schedule: Aug. 30, Oklahoma Baptist, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Evangel, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Kansas Wesleyan, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, Friends, 6 p.m.; Oct. 4, Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, at Bethany, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Bethel, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Saint Mary, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, at McPherson, 1:30 p.m.

6. Bethany

Coach: Manny Matsakis, second season, 2-9

2013: 2-9, 1-8

Outlook: Bethany struggled mightily in Matsakis’ first season, although one of the Swedes’ wins was an upset of nationally-ranked Tabor.

Bethany returns proven talent that could translate to wins in four honorable mention All-KCAC picks — senior linebacker Steven Williams, senior defensive back Trevor Smith, sophomore wide receiver Rodney Molette and junior punter Brett Crome.

Matsakis added two former Kansas State players as assistants in defensive coordinator Joe Gordon and wide receivers coach Mike Lawrence.

Schedule: Sept. 6, SW Assemblies of God, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Graceland, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Ottawa, 6 p.m.; Sept. 27, Saint Mary, 6 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, Southwestern, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Kansas Wesleyan, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Friends, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, at McPherson, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, Bethel, 1:30 p.m.

7. Saint Mary

Coach: Jay Osborne, first season

2013: 4-7, 3-6

Outlook: Osborne takes over for Lance Hinson, who became coach at NCAA Division II McMurry. Osborne spent the last four seasons as the Spires’ offensive coordinator.

Senior wide receiver Alex Gomes-Coelho was one of the top receivers in the KCAC last season, with 51 catches for 750 yards and four touchdowns on the way to second team All-KCAC honors.

Schedule: Aug. 30, at Avila, 10 a.m.; Sept. 6, Oklahoma Baptist, 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Culver-Stockton, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Sept. 27, at Bethany, 6 p.m.; Oct. 4, Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 11, Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at McPherson, 6 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, Southwestern, 1 p.m.; Nov. 8, Kansas Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15 at Friends, 1:30 p.m.

8. McPherson

Coach: Steve Fox, first season

2013: 5-6, 4-5

Outlook: Fox takes over after serving as defensive coordinator the last two seasons. This is his first head-coaching job.

McPherson returns five starters on offense and five starters on defense, led by quarterback Jordan Hoffman, who quietly had a solid season in 2013, throwing for 2,361 yards and 16 touchdowns, but also threw 11 interceptions.

Linebacker Trent Forrester and defensive lineman Grant Narcisse were honorable mention All-KCAC picks last season and were both named to the preseason All-KCAC team.

Schedule: Sept. 6 at Bacone, 6 p.m.; Sept. 13, at MidAmerica Nazarene, 7 p.m.; Sept. 20, at Bethel, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, Kansas Wesleyan, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Ottawa, 6 p.m.; Oct. 11, Friends, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, Saint Mary, 6 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, Bethany, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, Southwestern, 1:30 p.m.

9. Kansas Wesleyan

Coach: Matt Drinkall, first season

2013: 4-7, 3-6

Outlook: The Coyotes got rid of longtime coach Dave Dallas after 17 seasons and brought in Drinkall, a 31-year-old assistant coach from St. Ambrose who was the Fighting Bees’ offensive coordinator the last two seasons.

The battle for starting quarterback is between senir Sam Vaughan and junior transfer Jake Curran, a Garden City Community College product and Garden City native. Kansas Wesleyan has a favorable schedule, with no ranked opponents until its fifth game, at No. 19 Friends on Oct. 4.

Schedule: Sept. 6, Hastings, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, Central Methodist, 6 p.m.; Sept. 20, Southwestern, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, at McPherson, 7 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Friends, 3 p.m.; Oct. 11, Tabor, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, Bethany, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, at Bethel, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 8, at Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, at Sterling, 1:30 p.m.

10. Bethel

Coach: Marty Mathis, second season, 2-9

2013: 2-9, 1-8

Outlook: Since winning a share of the KCAC title in 2007, the Threshers have bottomed out. Their last winning season was 2008, when they went 6-4, and a 3-7 mark in 2009 has been the highpoint of the last five seasons, including 0-10 campaigns in 2010 and 2012.

Bethel did show signs of life last year — three of their games were lost on the final drive.

Schedule: Aug. 30, at Haskell, 7 p.m.; Sept. 13, at Avila, 1 p.m.; Sept. 20, McPherson, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, Ottawa, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 4, at Saint Mary, 1:30 p.m; Oct. 11, at Sterling, 1:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, Southwestern, 7 p.m.; Oct. 25, Kansas Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.; Nov. 1, at Friends, 1;30 p.m, Nov. 8, Tabor, 1:30 p.m.: Nov. 15, at Bethany, 1:30 p.m.

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