Bulletin Staff Report

Coming off a 1-9 campaign and with a new head coach in place in Steve Fanara, the head coaches, sports information directors and selected media members of the American Southwest Conference have picked the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets to finish seventh in the nine-team football league.

The preseason poll, which was released Monday, lists three-time conference champion Mary Hardin-Baylor (12-2, 8-0) as the favorite, followed by Hardin-Simmons (6-4, 6-2), Mississippi College (8-2, 6-2), East Texas Baptist (5-5, 5-3), Louisiana College (5-5, 4-4), Texas Lutheran (2-8, 2-6), Howard Payne (1-9, 1-7), Sul Ross (5-5, 3-5) and McMurry (2-8, 1-7).

UMHB received 24 of 27 first-place votes, with two going to Mississippi College and one received by Hardin-Simmons, who fell to the Yellow Jackets on its home turf last season, 48-47, in overtime.

Preseason player of the year selections included Mississippi College junior quarterback Adam Shaffer on offense, Mary Hardin-Baylor senior linebacker Eric Henri on defense and East Texas Baptist senior kicker Kyle Pope on special teams.

Fanara, who served as Howard Payne’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons, inherits a team that allowed 40.9 points and 428 yards of total offense per game, while scoring 27.6 points and churning out 359.8 yards per outing. HPU returns only four offensive and no defensive starters from last year. Overall, the Jackets lost 75 lettermen and return 47.

The Yellow Jackets do not open their season until Sept. 13 when Texas College visits for a noon kickoff at Gordon Wood Stadium. Howard Payne’s first ASC game will take place Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. in Alpine against Sul Ross.

The regular season finale is scheduled for Nov. 15 at Gordon Wood Stadium as East Texas Baptist visits for a 1 p.m. contest.