BELTON, TX — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team is once again picked to win the American Southwest Conference Championship in the league’s 2019 Preseason Coaches Poll, making it 17 straight years for UMHB to be the choice to win the league. The defending National Champion Cru picked up 19 of the 20 first-place votes and totaled 199 points in balloting of the ASC head coaches and sports information directors. Hardin-Simmons is the pick to finish second with 179 total points and the Cowboys also received the other first-place vote. East Texas Baptist is picked third with 148 total points, Texas Lutheran totaled 138 points for fourth place and Southwestern University is picked fifth with 127 points. Louisiana College comes in at #6 with 106 total points, Howard Payne is picked seventh with 53 totals points, Belhaven University and Sul Ross State shared eighth place with 52 points apiece and McMurry University rounds out the field with a 10th-place total of 46 points.
UMHB’s Joey Longoria was voted ASC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Longoria, a senior defensive tackle from Pearland High School, earned All-American and ASC Defensive Lineman of the Year honors after leading the Cru with 8.0 sacks tackles last season. He also had 12.5 tackles for loss among his 66 total tackles. Longoria broke up four passes, forced a fumble and recovered another for a touchdown against Southwestern University.
Hardin-Simmons senior running back Jaquan Hemphill was voted ASC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Texas Lutheran sophomore kicker Juan Ocampo was voted ASC Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year. UMHB senior wide receiver Jonel Reed, junior defensive back Jefferson Fritz and sophomore kick returner/wide receiver Aaron Sims were named to the Preseason Players to Watch list after being nominated for Preseason Player of the Year honors. Fritz is the defending ASC Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-American honors after setting a conference record with 12 interceptions. Reed caught 31 passes for 588 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Sims earned All-American honors and led the country with a conference-record five punt returns for touchdown last season, but he will miss the first five games of the year.
The Cru went 15-0 overall and won its 16th ASC title with a 9-0 league record last season. The team won its second national championship with a 24-16 victory over Mount Union in Stagg Bowl XLVI last December in Shenandoah, Texas. UMHB expects to return 39 lettermen and six starters on both sides of the ball from that team this year. The Cru kicks off the 2019 season with a home game against Albright College on September 14th. The Cru has won at least a share of 16 of the last 17 ASC titles and has advanced to at least the Second Round of the NCAA Division III National Championships in each of the last 15 seasons, playing in three consecutive Stagg Bowls in that time.