As the Fort Hays State University football team continues it’s apparent climb in the MIAA, new milestones and more attention are likely to come with it.
The important thing to remember for the Tigers is it’s still a long season ahead, and each week presents a new challenge, especially in the 12-team conference where every game could mean the difference between possibly playing in December, or hanging up the pads after the Nov. 11 regular-season finale.
Still, after a 35-6 drubbing of previously No. 13 University of Central Missouri at home Thursday, another new milestone came for the Tigers.
For the first time since its introduction in 2000, the Tigers jumped into the rankings by the AFCA in NCAA Division II.
The Tiger debuted at No. 21 in the poll released Monday after previously receiving votes following their Week 1 win.
“We’re still humble. We don’t want to be overconfident,” junior linebacker Jose Delgado said following the win against UCM. “We don’t want to underestimate anyone.”
The AFCA thought the win was enough to catapult FHSU into the rankings and knock UCM from 13th to just receiving votes. MIAA member Northwest Missouri State University, the defending national champion, remained No. 1, while Emporia State University moved from 15th to 14th.
It’s not the first time FHSU has been ranked in Division II. The last appearance came in 1996 when FHSU ranked No. 6. The Tigers fell out of the poll the following week and went about 21 years out of any official rankings until this week.
The important thing, sophomore wide receiver Layne Bieberle said after last week’s win, is not having a letdown. Last season the Tigers enjoyed a big road win, 54-41, at MIAA perennial power Pittsburg State University, then turned around the following week and fell 30-24 to Washburn.
“Last year we kind of did that when we played Pitt State,” Bieberle said. “We know that we can’t be letting up. We just have to stay focused and come to play every day. We just have to keep it rolling.”
As the Tigers begin practice today for this week’s opponent — University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla. — they will do so for the first time as a ranked team by the AFCA.
“Want to be confident, but don’t want to get arrogant or cocky,” Tiger head coach Chris Brown said after the blowout against UCM. “Make sure we keep an even keel.
“A lot of work to be done,” the seventh-year coach added. “This is only Week 2 and we have nine more to go.”
And possibly more if national rankings at this point in the season mean anything.