Coming off back-to-back 1-9 campaigns, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are expected to make a climb in the league standings according to the American Southwest Conference preseason football poll, which was released earlier this week.
The Yellow Jackets (1-9, 1-8), under third-year head coach Braxton Harris, received 53 points in the poll, one more than Belhaven (2-8, 2-7) and Sul Ross (1-9, 1-8), who tied for eighth place with 52 points, and seven more points than McMurry (2-8, 2-7), whose 46 point-total was last in the conference.
Defending national champion and top-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor (15-0, 9-0) is projected to win its 15th consecutive ASC crown, receiving 199 of a possible 200 points in the poll. UMHB garnered 19 of 20 first-place votes, with the other going to No. 9 Hardin-Simmons (9-2, 8-1), which came in second in the poll with 179 points.
East Texas Baptist (6-4, 6-3), with 148 points, is picked to place third followed by fourth-place Texas Lutheran (7-3, 6-3) with 138 points, fifth-place Southwestern (6-4, 5-4) with 127 points, sixth-place Louisiana College (5-5, 5-4) with 106 points, then HPU.
Also, Hardin-Simmons senior running back Jaquan Hemphill, a Coleman graduate, was voted as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Mary Hardin-Baylor senior defensive lineman Joey Longoria was selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Texas Lutheran sophomore kicker Juan Ocampo earned Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
The Yellow Jackets open the regular season Sept. 7 at Austin College, kick off ASC action Sept. 14 at McMurry and host Hardin-Simmons in the home opener on Sept. 21.