FORT WORTH, Texas – Langston tops the first Sooner Athletic Conference preseason football coaches’ poll ever.
Conference coaches also named preseason award winners. Southwestern Assemblies of God quarterback C.J. Collins became the preseason SAC offensive player of the year.
Oklahoma Panhandle State linebacker Nate Leithead has been tabbed preseason league defensive player of the year, while Lyon kicker-punter Ignacio Gomez snared preseason special teams player of the year.
Collins, a senior from Bosqueville, Texas, produced 2,840 yards and 26 touchdowns passing last year for the Lions. He ranked 15th in the NAIA in passing yardage to grab league player of the year.
Leithead, a junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., picked up 69 tackles, 32 solo tackles, 2½ sacks and an interception for the Aggies to snag all-league acclaim. Gomez, a junior from Wilmer, Texas, connected on 9-of-12 field-goal attempts and 37-of-39 extra-point attempts while averaging 39.5 yards on punts to make the all-league team.
Langston comes off a 10-1 season where the Lions went unbeaten until the NAIA Championship Series and won the Central States Football League championship. Langston collected seven of the possible nine first-place votes to total 63 points in the poll and enter the year as the preseason conference favorite. Jaylen Lowe, a senior quarterback from Collinsville, Okla., had 1,116 yards and 11 TDs through the air for Langston to be league athlete of the year in 2017.
Arizona Christian took the second spot in the poll with 51 points while garnering a first-place vote. The Firestorm finished 7-3 last season after winning the previous two league titles. Southwestern Assemblies of God tied for the second slot after also tallying 51 points and a first-place vote. SAGU turned in an 8-3 mark last year.
Panhandle State finished fourth in the poll with 46 points, while Lyon and Wayland Baptist were knotted for fifth at 30 points. Ottawa-Arizona enters its first year of playing football at seventh in the preseason SAC poll. League coaches predicted Texas College to finish eighth, and Texas Wesleyan took ninth in the poll.
This year marks the inaugural football season for the SAC, whose member schools have amassed an NAIA-best 106 national championships in 14 sports throughout its 40-year history. The first game of 2018 featuring a SAC member happens Thursday, Aug. 23, when Southwestern Assemblies of God visits Evangel (Mo.) for an ESPN3-broadcasted bout. The first ever SAC contest is set for Saturday, Sept. 8, when Ottawa-Arizona visits Langston.
2018 Football Coaches’ Preseason Poll
||Team (First-place votes)
||Arizona Christian (1)
||Southwestern Assemblies of God (1)
||Oklahoma Panhandle State
NOTE: Votes were cast by each of the nine head coaches. Coaches could not vote for their own team.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: C.J. Collins, QB, Southwestern Assemblies of God
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Nate Leithead, LB, Panhandle State
Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year: Ignacio Gomez, P/K, Lyon