KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After back-to-back conference championships, Fort Hays State football coach Chris Brown was mildly concerned with how the success of the last two seasons would affect his team’s mindset and attitude heading into this year's campaign.
But that’s no longer a worry for the ninth-year Tigers’ coach, with Brown convinced his players are in the right frame of mind as they go for the MIAA three-peat.
“I was worried about if I’d maybe have to humble these kids, just kind of knock them down a notch,” Brown said Wednesday during MIAA Media Day at the Kauffman Foundation Center. “But they’ve really taken it upon themselves to keep working, knowing that they’re going to get everybody’s best, week in and week out, and understanding how tough this conference is.
“They’ve worked and they’ve really been committed. I think this is just a good group that’s got a good head on their shoulders.”
Even with the two straight MIAA titles, the Tigers still feel like they have unfinished business after being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round the last two years.
“I’ve talked to some of the kids already ... ’Don’t be the team that doesn’t win the conference. Do you want to be that group of guys?' ” Brown said. “And they say ‘coach, we’re not really worried about that. We’re worried about getting to the playoffs and being the team that actually gets past the first round and wins some of these games.
“I think they’re ready. I think they have the right mindset right now."
The Tigers, tabbed first in the MIAA coaches poll and second in themedia poll, return the bulk of their offensive unit from a year.
Quarterback Chance Fuller is ready to take the reins of the offense after splitting time with Jacob Mezera last year. Fuller, now a redshirt sophomore, helped the Tigers knock off Northwest Missouri in Maryville in the first start of this career last year.
The Tigers also return a strong receiving corps, featuring seniors Layne Bieberle and Harley Hazlett.
“We’ve got the guys, man. I know we can roll with it,” Bieberle said of the Tigers’ offense. “We’ve put in so much work this summer it’s crazy to think about. We’ve got talent all the way around.”
However, the Tigers have some big shoes to fill on the defensive side, losing six All-MIAA selections including MIAA player of the year Jose Delgado at linebacker.
“We did lose a few guys, but like any other team, you’ve got to fill those roles,” senior linebacker Kolt Trachsel said. “We’ve got the guys to do it. We’ve just got to believe that they can fill those roles. I trust in every single one of them.”
The Tigers begin their MIAA title defense on the road against Central Missouri on Sept. 5 in Warrensburg, Mo.