The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

August 12, 2013

Tight race expected in CNC

Columbus picked to win football conference

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Coaches throw around phrases like “anybody can beat anybody” pretty often.

But CNC coaches used the adage even more frequently than usual during the 100.7 FM “Sports Headquarters” preseason football luncheon on Monday at Watco Companies in Pittsburg.

They also backed up the use of the cliche with tight voting in the CNC preseason coaches poll.

The Columbus Titans (56) edged the defending CNC champion Girard Trojans (55) by one point for the top spot. Galena (49) and St. Mary’s-Colgan (47) followed close behind. Columbus, Girard and Colgan each earned first-place votes, and only nine points separated the first and fourth-place teams.

“Everybody in this league is capable of beating anybody on any given night,” Galena Bulldogs coach Beau Sarwinski said. “You can take your pick. I think your top five or six teams, any one of them could be the No. 1 team in the league. There’s a lot of parity amongst the league. You’re just going to have to be ready to play every Friday night.”

Columbus coach Dan Grundy said he expects another tough season after finishing 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the CNC for the Titans’ first year in the conference.

“It means a lot to get that kind of exposure,” Grundy said about being picked to win the league. “But as far as being No. 1 instead of being somewhere else, we don’t factor that kind of stuff in. The one thing about this league we found out our first year last year, that any team can beat you on any night. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. A poll doesn’t determine the outcome of the games on Friday nights.”

The Titans do have some nice building blocks though with all-league quarterback Nate Bole and all-league linebacker Jace McDown among the returning players.

Girard finished unbeaten in the league last season, but have only two seniors on this year’s roster. The Trojans were a good example of how the coaches were divided on preseason predictions. Girard received five first-place votes, but all of the rest were outside of the top three.

The Bulldogs have six starters back on each side of the ball, including quarterback Kyler Cook.

“We’ve had a really good summer,” Sarwinski said. “The kids have worked hard. They know the expectations.. Our summer has been very good, and I think the kids are really excited about getting started.”

The Panthers return five starters on offense and seven on defense but graduated several key players from last year’s Class 3A playoff team.

“Right now there are a lot of question marks, so I don’t really know exactly how things are going to fall,” Colgan coach Chuck Smith said. “But I’m real pleased with their attitude and the way they’ve worked and gotten themselves ready.”

Frontenac (36), Riverton (32), Southeast (23), Baxter Springs (13) and Erie (10) completed the poll.

Riverton coach Derrick Rider echoed the other coaches that the tight voting showed the competitiveness of the league.

“From top to bottom, the league is solid as it’s ever been,” Rider said. “That’s the exciting part, knowing that you’ll have to bring your best and that every week there’s a lot on the line. You’re going to have to come out with your best effort every week.”

Former Neodesha assistant Jacob Lott begins his first season at Southeast. He will try to build off the Lancers’ breakthrough 6-3 season in 2012.

“I’ve been impressed with how the kids have worked,” he said. “Coming in as a new coach and knowing we lost a lot of kids you don’t know what to expect. But I think our kids have worked hard. Our kids are hungry and they’re wanting to build on last year. And I think that’s a good start.”

CNC Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Columbus (2)    56

2. Girard (5)    55

3. Galena    49

4. Colgan (1)    47

5. Frontenac    36

6. Riverton    32

7. Southeast    23

8. Baxter Springs    13

9. Erie    10

First-place votes in parentheses

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