KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two-time defending MIAA football champion Fort Hays State topped the conference's preseason coaches poll, narrowly edging perennial power Northwest Missouri State in the voting.

The Tigers garnered six first-place votes and 114 total points, while the Bearcats claimed five first-place votes and 112 points.

“Honestly, it’s an honor, but we aren’t too worried about (the poll),” FHSU senior linebacker Kolt Trachsel said Wednesday during MIAA Media Day at the Kauffman Foundation Center. “We’ll just play the games, and that’s what it is (about).”

“You don’t look at (the polls),” Tiger senior receiver Layne Bieberle said. “What we’re looking at is week-by-week play, focusing on one game at a time and trying to get the job done and be prepared.”

FHSU shared the MIAA title with Northwest Missouri with a 9-2 conference mark last year, earning a last-season road win over the Bearcats for the second straight year.

The Bearcats were picked first in the media poll, receiving 32 first-place votes while FHSU was slotted second, receiving seven No. 1 votes.  

Fort Hays went 9-3 overall and reached the NCAA Division II playoffs for the second consecutive season before falling to UIndy on the road in the first round.

The Tigers, entering their ninth year under coach Chris Brown, return nine starters on offense, including five All-MIAA performers from last year — junior offense lineman Amari Angram-Boldin (second team), senior Layne Bieberle (third team), senior tight end Matt Wendelberger (third team), senior running back Charles Tigner (third team) and senior receiver Harley Hazlett (honorable mention).

Kicker Dante Brown also returns after being named NCAA Division II special teams player of the year by the Don Hansen Football Committee as well as MIAA special teams player of the year as a junior. Brown made an NCAA-best 28 field goals last year.

The Tigers lost six All-MIAA players on defense but returns four starters — Trachsel, defensive linemen Sterling Swopes and Sheldon Schmidt and defensive back Tanner Hoekman. Swopes was a third-team All-MIAA pick last year while Trachsel and Hoekman received honorable mention.

Pittsburg State was third in both the coaches and media polls, receiving a first-place vote in the coaches poll. Central Oklahoma was fourth in the coaches poll while Central Missouri rounded out the top five. UCO and UCM flipped spots in the media poll.

Emporia State, coming off an 8-4 season, was tabbed sixth in the coaches and media polls. Washburn, 5-6 a year ago, was tabbed eighth in both polls.

2019 MIAA Football Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Fort Hays State (6) — 114 points

2. Northwest Missouri (5) — 112 points

3. Pittsburg State (1) — 97 points

4. Central Oklahoma — 90 points

5. Central Missouri — 80 points

6. Emporia State — 73 points

7. Missouri Western — 57 points

8. Washburn — 54 points

9. Nebraska Kearney — 46 points

10. Missouri Southern — 34 points

11. Northeastern State — 23 points

12. Lincoln — 12 points

2019 MIAA Football Preseason Media Poll

1. Northwest Missouri (32) — 471 points

2. Fort Hays State (7) — 433 points

3. Pittsburg State — 378 points

4. Central Missouri — 336 points

5. Central Oklahoma — 313 points

6. Emporia State — 264 points

7. Missouri Western — 245 points

8. Washburn — 234 points

9. Nebraska Kearney — 194 points

10. Missouri Southern (1) — 120 points

11. Northeastern State — 79 points

12. Lincoln — 52 points