WICHITA, Kan. – For the first time since 2002, Butler is not the conference preseason favorite in football, as the 2015 preseason coaches poll was announced at KJCCC Football Media Day on Friday.
Instead, the Grizzlies (8-3 last season), the preseason favorite in 12 straight polls, are predicted to finish third in the conference behind last year's champion Hutchinson and runner-up Coffeyville. Butler, winners of 14 of the last 17 KJCCC titles, opens the 2015 season on Thursday, Aug. 27 at Independence.
New Butler head coach Tim Schaffner, who replaced legendary head coach Troy Morrell after a 15-year run, wasn't surprised about being selected third.
"Personally, I think it's awesome," said Schaffner, who was hired in January. "I think we're right where I thought we'd be. We were 8-3 last year and coming off a coaching change, I think it would have been ludicrous for those coaches to think we'd be higher. The beauty of it is we get to play it out."
The Grizzlies return four starters from last year – three on offense, one on defense – and return 25 lettermen. Offensively, the Grizzlies return All-American tight end Andrew Reinkemeyer (15 receptions, 173 yards, 3 touchdowns), wide receiver Michael Gallup (44 receptions, 780 yards, 11 touchdowns) and offensive lineman Blaise Fountain. Defensive lineman Zach Befort (49 tackles, four sacks) is the lone returner on the defensive side. In addition to the returning starters, Butler returns a total of 25 letterman from last year's squad.
Six home games at BG Products Veterans Sports Complex highlight the 2015 schedule, including the home opener on Sept. 5 against Iowa Western, who lost the 2014 NJCAA Championship to East Mississippi and finished third in last year's final NJCAA poll. The Grizzlies will host five of the final seven games of the regular season, including three straight home games - Air Force Prep (Sept. 26), Iowa Central (Oct. 3) and Dodge City (Oct. 10). Butler will also host Garden City and Highland on the final two Saturdays in October. The road portion of the schedule feature battles with rivals Hutchinson on Sept. 12 and and Coffeyville on Oct. 17.
Following Butler in the poll was Dodge City in fourth, while Garden City and Highland tied for fifth. Fort Scott and Independence were predicted to finish seventh and eighth, respectively.
| KJCCC FOOTBALL COACHES POLL
2015 Predicted Order of Finish
|2015 BUTLER FOOTBALL SCHEDULE|
|Aug. 27||at Independence||7:00 p.m.|
|Sept. 5||IOWA WESTERN||7:00 p.m.|
|Sept. 12||at Hutchinson||7:00 p.m.|
|Sept. 19||at Fort Scott||7:00 p.m.|
|Sept. 26||AIR FORCE PREP||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 3||IOWA CENTRAL||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 10||DODGE CITY||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 17||at Coffeyville||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 24||GARDEN CITY||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 31||HIGHLAND||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 7||at Ellsworth (IA)||1:00 p.m.|
Home games in BOLD CAPS