LINDALE, Texas — The Trinity Valley Community College Cardinals were picked to repeat as the champion in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference for the fifth straight year Friday during the annual conference coaches meeting Friday, July 28 .
The Media Day, held at at the Garden Valley Resort & Golf Club, featured presentations by the eight-member head coaches of the SWJCFC.
At one end of the spectrum during the speeches, veteran mentor Brad Smiley was elated about the success of the Cardinal program. Trinity Valley returns six starters on offense and seven on defense after finishing 7-1 in the conference and 11-1 overall.
Imagine for a moment being a head coach entering football season without one single returning ball carrier in tow at the other end of the spectrum.
That's the major dilemma Kilgore College's J.J. Eckert faces, embarking on his 11th season at the controls of Ranger football fortunes.
Kilgore, which advanced to the SWJCFC championship before losing 54-41 to TVCC in overtime, was tabbed second by coaches, while Tyler Junior College garnered runner-up honors in the media rankings.
"This is such a neat time of year,” Eckert said in a story that appeared on the LongView (Texas) News-Journal's website. “Football is right around the corner. There's a lot of excitement knowing the grind in getting ready to start.”
"We're in such a competitive league that you better have it buckled from week one through week nine,” Eckert said. “If you're not wrapped up and ready to go, it can be a bear."
Eckert, along with TVCC's Smiley and TJC's Danny Palmer, provide great stability for the SWJCFC with a combined 33 years head coaching experience in the conference.
While New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell enters its second season a a member of the SWJCFC, Joe Forchter is set for his seventh year in Roswell, while Cody Crill starts season three at Navarro College in Corsicana.
Former Kilgore assistant coach Russell Thompson begins his first year at head coach at Cisco, while Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s Clay Patterson along with Ryan Mahon of Blinn College both move into their second seasons at their respective institutions.
"Every year is different for each team. I think when you look at it there are so many differences,” Eckert told the News-Journal. “Some places may have a little more continuity than others. This year for us, I feel like we've got a lot of question marks.”
Last year, Patterson made his heading coaching debut at his alma mater after serving as an assistant coach at Trinity Valley. He guided NEO to a fourth place finish in the conference with a 4-3 record.
Tied with three other teams for second place, the Golden Norsemen earned a post-season playoff spot with a tie-breaker.
NEO suffered a 52-13 loss to the Cardinals in the semifinals to finish 5-5 overall.
Tyler Junior College is picked fourth in the coaches voting and second in the press polling.
TVCC received six first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. The Cardinals garnered 62 points, followed by Kilgore (43 points), Navarro (one first-place vote, 42), Tyler (41), NEO (one first place-place vote, 39), Blinn (29), New Mexico Military Institute (24) and Cisco (8).
On the media side, Trinity Valley had nine first-place votes and 90 points. The Cards were followed by TJC (two firsts, 73 points), Kilgore (69), Navarro (one first, 62), NEO (60), Blinn (40), NMMI (26) and Cisco (12).
TVCC's Brad Smiley has carved out a 60-36 record with the Cardinals and ranks tops in all-time victories at the school ... Eckert, originally from Tahlequah, is 58-35 with the Rangers…Danny Palmer sports an overall mark of 58-37 with the Apaches ... New Mexico Military Institute prepares for its second season in the SWJCFC after a long hitch in the Western Junior Athletic Conference ... NEO defensive line coach Blake Bryan joined the Golden Norse staff after a stint at Trinity Valley…Former Kilgore High School and University of Texas standout Eddie Jones is defensive coordinator at Blinn. Henderson's Drew Coleman is also an assistant on the Blinn staff ... First-year Cisco coach Russell Thompson is very familiar with the SWJCFC having spent six years at TJC as defensive coordinator and prior to that a four-year run at KC in the same role.
Information in this report was provided by the Longview (Texas) News-Journal..