The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

High School Sports

August 12, 2013

Fort Scott picked to win SEK

Coaches predict competitive league

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Looking for a good sign that a league has a log jam of good teams at the top?

You may want to start here: the team picked third by the league’s coaches is already talking about the possibility of a state title run.

The team is the Coffeyville Golden Tornado and the league is the Southeast Kansas League, which unveiled its coaches poll on Monday at the ESPN 100.7’s preseason coaches’ luncheon.

Coffeyville, to be fair, was picked third by the slimmest of margins. Fort Scott was first with 32 points and three first-place votes. Pittsburg was one point (and one first-place vote) behind in second place and Coffeyville (also with a pair of first-place nods) was just one point behind Pittsburg.

“It’s been a while since there has been that much parity at the top,” Pittsburg coach Tom Nickelson said.

And don’t take Coffeyville’s state title dreams lightly.

The Golden Tornado finished 8-3 in 2012, making it to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. They return 10 starters on defense and eight on offense, including speedster James Newton, a senior receiver/free safety who is getting Division I attention.

“It’s the best, talent-wise on paper I’ve ever coached,” Coffeyville coach Murray Zogg said. “I’m excited about the potential we have and hopefully it comes down the way I think it can. Each year I’ve been at Coffeyville we’ve taken a step and hopefully we can take the next step and push not only for a league title, but possibly even a state title. Who knows?”

Pittsburg will field an uncharacteristically young team. The Purple Dragons return just eight seniors and just three starters on each side of the ball.

“We have a lot of competition for a lot of starting positions,” Nickelson said. “We’re going to be a very young team. We’re going to put the best 11 on the field whether they’re freshmen or seniors and that has generated a lot of healthy competition.”

Fort Scott returns 13 starters — five offensive and eight defensive — from last year’s 9-1 team that won SEK and district titles.

“You never know where you’re at until you get helmets and shoulder pads on,” longtime Tiger coach Bob Campbell said. “We feel like we have a chance to be good, but we’ve definitely got a lot of work ahead of us. It’s an honor to be picked first, but now you have to go out and actually do something and prove it.”

Chanute (21 points), Independence (14), Labette County (13) and Parsons (6) rounded out the league poll.

“We thought it was going to be pretty evenly matched last year and I think this year is going to be very, very similar,” Campbell said. “There are a lot of teams comparable. Pittsburg if obviously good, Coffeyville, talent wise, is very, very good. It’s a league where any week you can stub your toe.”

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