Bulldogs, Swedes picked low in polls

By Steve Sell
August 07, 2015

WICHITA — Imagine that — the KCAC football coaches and media not agreeing.

While the coaches picked the defending champion Ottawa Braves No. 1 during the annual Media Day on Friday, the media split on Friends and Tabor sharing the championship. Ironically, not one media member predicted Ottawa to repeat.

Polls were conducted following orations by the 10 head coaches, four of them being new — Paul Mierkiewicz at McPherson College, Paul Hubbard at Bethany College, Morris Lolar at Bethel and Brad Griffin at Southwestern.

Not surprisingly, those four schools were picked to occupy positions Nos. 7 through 10 in both polls.

The coaches went with Ottawa as the top dog even though the Braves must replace their star triplets of quarterback Michael Behr, running back Luke Lundy and speedy receiver Josh Stangby.

Tabor, which has a roster the size of a small army with 136 players expected to report this week, was picked second, with Friends, Sterling and Kansas Wesleyan rounding out the top five. Saint Mary was sixth, followed by Bethany, McPherson College, Bethel and Southwestern.

Friends and Tabor are picked to share the championship, according to the media. Ottawa, Sterling and Saint Mary completed the top five. Kansas Wesleyan headed the second five, followed by Bethany, Bethel, Southwestern and McPherson College.

Mierkiewicz wasn’t surprised that his team was picked to finish near the bottom in the polls. The Bulldogs by far have the least number of players returning of any team and more than half their team will be freshmen. The Bulldogs’ strength would appear to be on the offensive side as McPherson High graduate Collin French and Calon Bibbs — both of whom earned KCAC postseason honors last year — headline what should be a strong offensive line, while most of the top receivers are back.

The offense could have been even stronger, but Kansas Wesleyan plucked away two of the team’s best operatives — running back Miles Balthazor and quarterback/receiver Kelly Cordova, both of whom were among the KCAC’s best freshmen last year. KW also attracted Friends’ first-team All-KCAC defensive back Sequente Marks and Bethany’s Marcus Bradley. All four transfers will have a huge impact for the Coyotes.

The Bulldog defense will be practically brand-new, as just a couple of starters return. Depth is going to be a major concern as Mac is going to have to avoid the injury bug.

The Bulldogs open their season Sept. 5 hosting Doane College, which is ranked No. 23 in the NAIA preseason poll and Mierkiewicz says it has most of its top players back.

Here are the polls:

• COACHES •

1st-place votes in parentheses

1. Ottawa (8) 89

2. Tabor (2) 79

3. Friends, 76

4. Sterling, 66

5. Kansas Wesleyan, 54

6. Saint Mary, 49

7. Bethany, 47

8. McPherson College, 30

9. Bethel, 25

9. Southwestern, 25

• MEDIA •

1. Friends (9) 137

1. Tabor (6) 137

3. Ottawa, 126

4. Sterling, 87

5. Saint Mary, 81

6. Kansas Wesleyan, 76

7. Bethany, 61

8. Bethel, 57

9. Southwestern, 42

10. McPherson College, 21


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