Stealing the idea from my Free Press predecessor, Andrew Ottoson, I have decided to dedicate this week?s column to highlights of my first Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference football media day, which I attended Friday in Salina.
? The biggest highlight was having 2010 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Ted Kessinger in attendance. Kessinger coached at Bethany for 28 seasons, winning 16 KCAC titles from 1976 to 2003. His career record is 219-57-1. Kessinger was inducted into NAIA Hall of Fame in 2003 and Kansas Sports Hall of fame in 2005.
Bethany, now coached by Jamie Cruce, was picked to finish sixth in the coaches poll and media poll.
? The day was overshadowed by the loss of McPherson football manager Blake Reed. He died Aug. 1. The 22-year-old suffered from muscular dystrophy. Some of the McPherson coaching staff missed media day to grieve.
First-year head coach Joe Bettasso was late to the function, having attended Reed?s funeral.
The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the coaches and media polls.
McPherson returns the KCAC?s leading rusher from 2009. Senior Aaron Lafitte averaged 93.6 yards a game, racking up 1,030 yards on 214 attempts.
Also returning to the Bulldogs is senior quarterback Shane Mascarenas, who led the KCAC in passing with a 59 percent completion rate for 3,201 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2009.
? Bethel?s Garrett Hiebert, a Goessel High alum, was the No. 6 passer (2,073 yards) and total offense producer (adding 176 rushing yards for a total of 2,249). He ranked No. 4 in pass efficiency.
? Several coaches congratulated Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger on the Braves? comeback, 40-34, win against Hastings College in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. Despite the graduation of quarterback Ethan Haller (4,882 passing yards, 43 touchdowns), wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Corey Schultz (combining for 3,234 receiving yards, 29 touchdowns) and seniors at nearly every position, Ottawa was picked to finish second in the KCAC.
? The Southwestern Moundbuilders have a new home with the completion of a stadium renovation. Richard L Jantz Stadium, built immediately north and downhill from the historic Stewart Fieldhouse in Winfield, will debut when Southwestern plays Panhandle State University Sept. 4.
? Cruce proudly announced the birth of his son, Austin Boyd Cruce. Later Sterling coach Andy Lambert announced his vasectomy with equal gusto.
? Friends? Monty Lewis appeared to be the most relaxed and confident coach as he shared what his team was preparing to do this season.
Picked first in both polls, the Falcons will look to senior running back Jaran Trotter to carry the load on the ground. Trotter was seventh in the KCAC with 466 yards on 66 carries, a 7.1 yard average.
? Kansas Wesleyan could have a nice balanced attack in its pro-set offense under 14-year coach Dave Dallas. Returning for the Coyotes is the KCAC?s No. 3 rusher, Jake Winship, who carried the ball 224 times for 764 yards.
The Coyotes also return senior quarterback Doug Webster, who ranked seventh in passing with 1,778 yards.
? Sterling will be led by the KCAC?s No. 2 rusher, Rashard Colquitt. The senior ran for 835 yards on 181 carries in his junior year. If the Warriors don?t want to be one dimensional, they will need senior quarterback Keoki Burbank to improve on his 1,101 passing yards in 2009. Burbank was accurate in his junior season, completing 54 percent of his passes.
? My prediction: I believe Friends will claim the KCAC title. Sterling will be second and Ottawa third; Friends and Sterling will play in the NAIA playoffs.
McPherson will finish fourth followed by Kansas Wesleyan, Tabor, Bethany, St. Mary, Southwestern and Bethel.