Bulletin Staff Report

Following a tie for fifth place in 2006, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are projected to come in fourth in the American Southwest Conference football race this fall.

The Yellow Jackets (5-5, 3-5 in ASC) — heading into their third season under head coach Mike Redwine — are picked behind two-time conference champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (10-3, 8-0), which is favored to add a third consecutive ASC title, Hardin-Simmons (8-2, 6-1) and Mississippi College (5-5, 3-5) in the annual ASC preseason coaches, sports information directors and media poll, which was released Monday.

Mary Hardin-Baylor’s selection marks the sixth straight year the Crusaders have been tabbed conference favorites. UMHB, which reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III playoffs last season, received 24 of 27 first-place votes and 239 points.

Hardin-Simmons, a playoff team again in 2006, garnered two first-place votes and 217 points. East Texas Baptist (3-7, 3-5) received the other first-place vote, but was picked seventh out of nine teams overall.

Mississippi College received 155 points in the poll, followed by the Yellow Jackets (127), Texas Lutheran (121), Sul Ross (116), ETBU (105), Louisiana College (90) and McMurry (45).

Texas Lutheran (6-4, 4-4) and Sul Ross (5-4, 4-4) joined UMHB and HSU as the only teams in the conference with overall winning records in 2006. Both Mary Hardin-Baylor and Hardin-Simmons finished the 2006 season ranked in all three major Division III football polls.

Also, Sul Ross running back T.J. Barber, Mary Hardin-Baylor linebacker Jerrell Freeman and Texas Lutheran kicker Holt Storrie — all seniors — were selected 2007 ASC preseason players of the year.

The ASC football season opens on Thursday, Aug. 30 with Mississippi College hosting rival Millsaps in the Community Animal Rescue & Adoption Backyard Brawl.

Six ASC squads — East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, McMurry, Sul Ross State and Texas Lutheran — start their seasons on Saturday, Sept. 1, while Louisiana College and Mary Hardin-Baylor begin action on Saturday, Sept. 8.