PITTSBURG, Kan. —
While there are fewer teams, the Southeast Kansas League preseason football poll still wasn’t easy for Pittsburg coach Tom Nickelson to fill out.
“It’s a lot harder to do than it was last year,” he said. “There is a lot of parity. I really didn’t know where to put anybody. I started from the bottom up and thought I can’t do this. Then starting from the top ... it’s tough. These (coaches) do a great job with their kids. Every game last year we had was a tough game. We’re expecting a lot of battles on Friday nights.”
The numbers in the poll reflect the parity as just three points separated the top three teams.
Pittsburg’s Purple Dragons, the defending champion, received 32 points, three more than both Coffeyville and Fort Scott. Coffeyville, which returns eight starters on offense, had three first-place votes, and Pittsburg and Fort Scott each had two.
Chanute had four second- or third-place votes and wound up fourth in the poll, followed by Independence, Labette County and Parsons.
“If Labette County is the sixth best team in your conference, it means the conference is pretty darned good,” Fort Scott coach Bob Campbell said.
“I know last year Parsons was picked near the bottom and they finished third in the league,” Coffeyville coach Murray Zogg said. “They surprised a lot of people.”
“I’ve always felt there was a high caliber of football played in the SEK League, and I’m really excited to be involved in it again,” Labette County coach Jesse Ybarra said.
Ybarra is beginning his second stint as the Grizzlies’ football coach after holding that position from 1988-93.
With two teams exiting for different leagues — Columbus to the CNC and Iola to the Frontier League — the SEK will play a complete conference schedule for the first time since 1980.
“I like it,” Nickelson said. “You’re going to get a true league champ. It’s not going to be based on percentage. And when we do our all-league selections, you will have seen every quarterback, you will have seen every defensive lineman.”
All coaches said they were pleased with their players’ summer weightlifting, especially Independence coach Carl Boldra.
“We’ve all heard about the bigger, stronger, faster program,” he said. “When we started this summer, we were little, slower and weaker. Hopefully we have worked hard enough.”
SEK football poll
The Southeast Kansas League football coaches preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points, conducted by 99.1 ESPN The Ticket:
1, Pittsburg (2) 32
2, Coffeyville (3) 29
(tie) Fort Scott (2) 29
4, Chanute 23
5, Independence 15
6, Labette County 10
7, Parsons 8