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Friday, May 6, 2016

Tigers picked third in SEK; Crest tops TRL vote

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fort Scott High School head coach Bob Campbell speaks to the media during the Southeast Kansas League's portion of a pre-season media conference in Pittsburg Thursday afternoon. The Tigers were picked to finish third in the SEK in a pre-season poll with Pittsburg and Chanute tying for first. The first day of practice is Monday with the season-opening contest against Labette County set for September 2 at Frary Field.
(Scott Nuzum/Tribune)
PITTSBURG -- Chanute and Pittsburg are co-favorites in Southeast Kansas League football, Crest is the top pick in Three Rivers League eight-man football, and Colgan was tabbed as the best in the CNC in voting released at a media conference here Thursday afternoon.

Fort Scott was voted third in the SEK poll while Uniontown was picked as the second-best of the three 11-man football teams in the Three Rivers League and Pleasanton was placed fourth among the TRL's six eight-man schools.

Although Jayhawk-Linn is transitioning back to the Three Rivers League, the Jayhawks weren't eligible for the poll because they will play one last season of football in the Pioneer League this year. All other JLHS sports return to the TRL this school year.

Chanute and Pittsburg had the same number of total points and first-place votes in the SEK poll (59 points, 8 top votes) while Fort Scott had one first-place vote and 48 points. Coffeyville was picked fourth followed by Columbus, Independence, Parsons, Labette County and Iola, which will be playing its final season of SEK football before moving to the Pioneer League next year.

FSHS head coach Bob Campbell returned to the position last season after four seasons away and saw his Tigers finish with a 6-4 record.

"I really found it a lot of fun and we had a great bunch of kids to coach," Campbell said of last season. "Every game was close and it was a balanced league. This year, I think it'll be the exact same thing."

Campbell pointed out that the Tigers' first six games were decided by two touchdowns or less. In fact, four of the five were determined by a total of 10 points with only the Independence (a loss) and Parsons (a win) contests decided by more than one score.

Once district play began, things got easier for the Tigers. They won the district with a 3-0 record with no game decided by fewer than 29 points.

This year, Campbell feels that he will have a good backfield. He also noted that his top four linebackers return and though there's only one returning offensive lineman, the Tigers have the potential to be solid up front.

Pittsburg will have a new head coach -- just the program's third since 1965 -- as assistant Tom Nickelson moves up. The Purple Dragons were undefeated in SEK play last season but finished just 5-4 overall.

Nickelson said he has three starters back on each side of the ball. Joe Wimmer, a receiver last year, and Spencer Bernhardt are expected to battle for the starting quarterback position. Broc Bennett returns on the offensive line.

Nickelson does not intend to make many changes.

"We're not going to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We're going to stick with what coach (Merle) Clark did because it works."

Chanute's head coach Don Simmons spoke last. And while the Blue Comets (8-3) expect 75 players to report for the first practice on Monday, one of the team's best may not be there. Simmons said that he has heard the parents of running back Jared McComb, third in the SEK with 23 touchdowns last season, are both looking for jobs in Texas.

"If that's the case," Simmons said, "it'll be running back by committee."

Simmons said that one of the players who had heard the story asked what the Blue Comets would do without McComb.

"Well," Simmons said, "we'll be playing a football game September 2. It takes 11 players to make a team."

Oswego, the top TRL 11-man team last season at 6-3, is looking to have 30 players out for the team. Most of the turnout in the summer weight program came from the underclassmen.

Uniontown head coach Chad Stroud expects nine seniors to be among the players that take part in the first practice on Monday.

"We're hoping for a huge step forward in senior leadership this season," Stroud said. "We had only four seniors last year.

"We're emphasizing competing and being a tougher football team. We felt there were games last year when we didn't compete as hard as we should have."

Stroud expects seven offensive and eight defensive starters to return from a 2-7 team.

Former head coach and current athletic director Jim Mason will return to the sideline this season as one of Stroud's assistants.

Northeast (0-9) brought up the rear in TRL 11-man voting.

Defending TRL 8-man champ Crest (9-2) received four of the six first-place votes while St. Paul (6-4) was recipient of the other two. Chetopa was placed third followed by Pleasanton (3-6), Marmaton Valley and Altoona-Midway.

Coaches from the bottom three teams, including new Blu-Jay head coach Ethan Sabine, were not present.

St. Paul head coach Doug Tuck has a three-year starter at quarterback returning but feels that his team needs to be tougher. He said that the Indians failed to score on nine of the trips inside their opponent's 15-yard line in their four losses.

Crest head coach Brent Smith lost eight seniors but has four starters back on offense. Junior running back Kyle Hammond gained 1,700 yards and scored 30 touchdowns last year. Jordan Wharton will be a full-time quarterback this year after switching to that position halfway through last season.

Colgan got the nod in the CNC even though the Panthers are ineligible for the title because they can only play four league games. This is because as a Class 2-1A school, Colgan is in a six-team district and must play five district games.

Galena was picked second in the CNC followed by Riverton, Girard, Frontenac, Baxter Springs and Erie and Southeast tied for last place.

Since Colgan beat all four CNC teams it played last year, Smith said he declared the team "Cow Creek Champions." The idea, he claimed, was based upon what happened to Colgan in 1969 when the Mineral Belt League decided to disband and then reformed without it. That year, Colgan defeated all its former league foes and declared itself "Cow Creek Champions."

Smith, entering his 32nd season as Panthers' head coach, said he expects 20 seniors to report and to be able to two-platoon -- have different starters on offense and defense. He also said that he expects Colgan to become a Class 3A school next season, which would eliminate the scheduling problem as it would go back to playing just three district games.

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