By BEN JOHNSON
Kenny Evans and Nick Bobeck knew what was going to happen. The head coaches at Northeastern State and Central Oklahoma, respectively, could foresee how the preseason polls were going to shake out in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.
“We were talking at the Oklahoma Coaches Clinic in Tulsa last week,” Evans said. “We both agreed that we’d be at the bottom.”
Sure enough, they were correct.
The league unveiled the preseason polls at Media Day in Kansas City, Mo., on Monday, and both NSU and UCO were closer to the bottom than the top. Northeastern State was picked to finish 11th in the coaches poll and 10th in the media poll. UCO found itself at 10th in the coaches poll and 11th in the media poll.
“We don’t deserve to be at the top of the preseason polls,” Bobeck said bluntly.
He’s right. The Bronchos turned in a 2-8 clunker of a campaign in 2012. NSU wasn’t much better at 4-6, recording all four victories in the final four weeks of the season.
“I knew we wouldn’t be picked any higher,” Evans said in a phone conversation with the Tahlequah Daily Press while at the media event in the heart of MIAA country.
“My thoughts are that it’s not going to end that way.”
NSU picked up 56 points in the coaches poll, which was one point behind Central Oklahoma for 10th place. The RiverHawks received 125 points in the media poll, falling 13 points shy of Fort Hays State and Missouri Southern, both of whom tied for eighth with 138 points.
Landing atop the preseason polls was Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats were picked to win the league outright by media members, while coming in a tie with Missouri Western in the coaches poll.
“I won’t talk to our players about it,” Northwest Missouri State head coach Adam Dorrel said. “But I’m glad we have (the top spot), though, because it generates a lot of excitement.”
Northwest Missouri State and Missouri Western both picked up 10 first-place votes in the media poll. Pittsburg State — the consensus third-place pick in both polls — received two first-place votes in the media poll. The final first-place vote went to Emporia State, which landed at the seventh spot.
The first-place votes in the coaches poll were dispersed among Missouri Western (six), Northwest Missouri State (six) and Pittsburg State (two).
As for Northeastern State, it is picked lower than it was in its inaugural season in the MIAA last season. The RiverHawks were ninth (coaches poll) and 10th (media poll) in last year’s preseason polls.
“This league is so good and so competitive,” Evans said. “So you have to prove yourself.”
NSU did end the 2012 season on a four-game winning streak, knocking off Central Missouri, Southwest Baptist, Central Oklahoma and Southwest Baptist. The RiverHawks also return 17 starters, including quarterback Johnny Deaton, running back Joel Rockmore, linebacker Langston Jones and safety Victor Johnson.
“We have a chance to do a lot,” Evans said. “We’ll just have to do it on the field. That’s why we play the game.”
The MIAA season gets started on Sept. 5 with six games: Central Oklahoma at Missouri Southern; Washburn at Nebraska Kearney; Missouri Western at Central Missouri; Emporia State at Fort Hays State; Lincoln at Lindenwood; Saginaw Valley State at Northwest Missouri State.
NSU begins the 2013 season on Sept. 7 at Pittsburg State.
Here’s a complete rundown of the MIAA preseason polls:
(First-place votes in parentheses)
T1. Missouri Western (6).....159
T1. NW Missouri State (6).....159
3. Pittsburg State (2).....145
4. Central Missouri....119
7. Emporia State......113
8. Fort Hays State......70
9. Missouri Southern......68
10. Central Oklahoma......57
11. Northeastern State......56
12. Neb. Kearney......51
13. SW Baptist......30
1. NW Missouri State (10)......300
2. Mo. Western (10)......294
3. Pittsburg State (2)......276
6. Central Missouri......205
7. Emporia State (1)......197
T8. Mo. Southern......138
T8. Fort Hays State......138
10. Northeastern State......125
11. Central Oklahoma......113
12. Neb. Kearney......96
13. SW Baptist......52