It’s kind of funny to Aaron Flores that this has become the norm for Coffeyville Community College football team.
“Every year I’ve been here, this is how it goes,” said Flores, the Red Ravens’ fourth-year coach. “It’s what we’ve gotten used to, I guess.”
For the third season in a row, Coffeyville will face a Top 10 opponent in the season-opener when No. 3 Iowa Western visits Coffeyville on Saturday. The game follows losses to No. 10 Hutchinson in 2012, No. 6 Hutchinson in 2013 and No. 2 Iowa Western in 2014.
“We knew last year, after we opened (at Iowa Western), that the schedule was just going to flip,” Flores said. “So it’s not like it’s a big surprise for us. We’re trying to carry the momentum from last year into this season, so that’s what we’re focused on.”
What’s different about this season-opener for the Red Ravens is they have their own No. 10 preseason ranking and enough talented newcomers and returners to end their three-year streak of season-opening losses.
Coffeyville went 9-3 last season, good enough for second in the Jayhawk Conference and a spot in the Heart of Texas Bowl, where the Red Ravens lost to undefeated Trinity Valley by two points.
The Red Ravens return All-American defensive back Jamarcus King, All-Jayhawk wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and bring in Tennessee transfer Riley Ferguson at quarterback.
King is committed to Auburn, while Wilson is committed to Arkansas State. Ferguson was with the team for spring football after spending last year away from football.
“Everybody’s come out and worked really hard in camp to get ready for the first game,” King said. “But that doesn’t mean we’ll treat it different than any other game, because we always want to come out and play hard. I think everybody’s ready to see what we’re going to do, what we’re going to bring to the table this season.”
King will be counted on to try and contain the nation’s top junior-college recruit — 6-foot-3, 190-pound Iowa Western wide receiver and TCU commit Taj Williams. Iowa Western went 11-1 last season and lost to East Mississippi in the NJCAA championship game.
“We hope those two can offset each other, but you don’t become a program like Iowa Western with just one talented guy,” Flores said. “They’re solid at each position.”
The Wilson-Ferguson connection could be dynamic this season after Wilson racked up 629 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season — his first as a wide receiver. Ferguson was one of the top quarterback recruits in the nation two years ago out of Butler High in Matthews, N.C., but left the Volunteers after a coaching change.
“(Wilson) has unbelievable hands, I just love watching him even catch routine balls because he’s so smooth,” Flores said. “He’s got that ‘It’ factor that comes with a lot of confidence and a lot of leadership. He’s not a very vocal guy, but he has unbelievable work ethic that he approaches every day with, and that rubs off on all of our guys.”
Wilson will also benefit from moving to the outside receiver spot after playing in the slot last year, which was a wake-up call for the 6-foot-3, 180-pound former quarterback.
“After playing quarterback my entire life, I found myself blocking a lot of linebackers, which took some getting used to,” Wilson said. “Playing receiver this offseason and getting to play outside, I feel like it’s a lot more comfortable. A lot more one-on-ones with cornerbacks and safeties.
“We’ve got more talent this year, overall. I think we’re all excited to get started.”
The Eagle’s high school, college and pro football preview sections.
Jayhawk Conference openers
Dodge City at Ellsworth (Iowa), 6 p.m.
Butler at Independence, 7 p.m.
Fort Scott at Iowa Central, noon
Garden City at Highland, 1 p.m.
Iowa Western at Coffeyville, 7 p.m.