Kearney focused on winning another RMAC title
COLORADO SPRINGS — Summer ended Wednesday morning for football teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The conference coaches and some of their top players gathered here for the annual RMAC Football Media Day, and every one of them, whether they donned their Sunday best or wore matching team shirts, were eager to stop talking about playing football and actually start playing again.
For Mesa State College, that begins in one week. The Mavericks report for physicals and meetings Aug. 11 and start fall camp the next day.
The season opens Sept. 2 at Missouri Western University, which received a multi-million dollar upgrade this year to become the training camp home of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Much of the talk Wednesday centered around the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s planned exit from the conference, but, as coach Darrell Morris was quick to remind the media, a move to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association won’t happen for two years.
The Lopers are focused on winning their second straight RMAC title.
Kearney is the odds-on favorite to repeat, receiving six first-place votes and 12 points (one point for first, two for second, etc.) in voting by the conference coaches.
Morris, who called the MIAA “the premier Division II football conference in the United States,” said he has between 15 and 17 scholarships, so in two years, if the Lopers expect to compete, those numbers will need to more than double. The MIAA allows 36 football scholarships, and all of the schools are fully funded. The RMAC allows 28 and no school has a full complement.
“Pony up,” he said. “The community and everybody is going to have to step up if it’s important to them for UNK not to be synonymous with ‘get your butt kicked.’ ‘’
Colorado Mines is picked second in the league and got three first-place votes.
Mesa State, which went 5-4 in the RMAC last season and 5-6 overall, is predicted to finish fifth behind Chadron State and CSU-Pueblo.
Two Mesa seniors, center Ryan Swope and outside linebacker Spencer McAdoo, made the preseason all-conference team.
That No. 5 ranking will be a source of motivation.
“You’ve got to have a fifth place and someone’s got to be there,” Swope said. “They picked us to be there. We have to show we think otherwise, and results show that.”
Roughly 40 players stayed in Grand Junction last summer and worked out every day. When they weren’t at their summer jobs, they were in the weight room, conditioning or building chemistry by running up mountains.
“The location we’re in, we’ve got mountains around us everywhere,” McAdoo said. “We did trail runs ... we’d pass people on the trail who said, ‘I can’t believe you’re running this trail.’ They’re walking it. We’d get to the top and we’re not done. We run, do sprint work. It was a struggle.”
They’re hoping the summer struggles lead to a fall that isn’t a struggle. The Mavericks haven’t been near the top of the RMAC since 2007, when they finished second to Chadron State.
“The past two years people would say, ‘This is a different team from ‘07, you have to forget about them,’ ‘’ McAdoo said. “Yeah, but we won, we did something right then. We’ve got to stick to those roots that we fell away from the past two years.
“This is the closest I can remember that we’ve had (talent) like that ‘07 team.”