LINDALE, Texas - Defending Southwest Junior College Football Confer-ence regular champion Kilgore College has been picked by the league coaches to return to the top in 2008.
The SWJCFC poll was released Thursday at the Garden Valley Golf Course during the annual Media Day.
Kilgore, which is ranked 14th in the preseason NJCAA/JC Football.Com poll, returns much of its offensive firepower this year. Kilgore received five first place votes and one second-place vote.
Blinn, ranked second in the NJCAA/JC Football poll, was tapped for second by league coaches, just one more vote than No. 6-ranked Navarro.
Navarro, who rolled past Kilgore in the conference championship game last November, received 51 points from the coaches, compared to 59 for Kilgore and 52 for Blinn. Kilgore received five first place votes and Blinn and Navarro one apiece.
The fourth projected playoff team is Cisco, followed in order by Tyler, Trinity Valley, Northeastern Okla-homa A&M and Arkansas Baptist, which is a full member of the conference after finishing 0-8 in a probationary season in 2007.
Second-year Kilgore head coach J.J. Eckert acknowledged that his team does have some solid football players returning, but said the Rangers still have a lot of question marks to address before opening the season at home on Aug. 30 against No. 18 Fort Scott, Kan.
”In this conference, you have to be ready to play every week if you want to have a chance to win,” Eckert said. ”We do have some players back. We have about 1,700 rushing yards returning in the backfield, and we have two of the top tackers on the conference returning on defense. But we don't have a quarterback on campus who has ever taken a snap in a college football game.
“We have some candidates that we think have a chance to be good, but the first time they'll be taking a snap is against Fort Scott Community College. That is a glaring question mark for us.”
Blinn is ranked No. 2, Navarro No. 6 and Cisco No. 24 in the initial NJCAA/JC Football.com poll.
”It should be a fun way to start off the season, but it isn't exactly the way I would have chosen,” Blinn head coach Brad Franchione said. ”We're excited about it though, and we'll just go up there and see what happens.”
New Navarro head coach Nick Bobeck was confident of his charges' chances this season.
“I'm excited about our football team and the coaches we have in place,” Bobeck said. “We've got some outstanding football players returning and some quality players coming in this preseason.”
“We're going to be running the same scheme offensively,” Bobeck said. “We had some very talented guys up front that allowed us to have a good running game this year.”
For the third straight season, the SWJCFC will open the year by facing teams from the Kansas Jayhawk Conference.
Besides Kilgore's game against Fort Scott and Blinn's meeting with Butler, other openers have Cisco hosting Garden City, Northeastern A&M visiting Hutchinson, Trinity Valley hosting Dodge City, Tyler taking on Independence at Lindale High School, Navarro visiting Coffeyville and Arkansas Baptist visiting Highland.