From SFA Athletics
HOUSTON (News Release) - Stephen F. Austin football has been picked sixth in the 2017 Southland Conference preseason poll as voted upon by the league's head coaches and sports information directors. The conference office unveiled the predicted order of finish Thursday in conjunction with 2017 Southland Conference Football Media Day at the Hilton Americas hotel in downtown Houston.
The Lumberjacks picked up 114 total points from head coaches and SID's votes, finishing 46 points better than seventh-place Lamar and just 19 points behind fifth-place Nicholls. Defending conference champion and rival Sam Houston State was tabbed to finish atop of the Southland once again after earning 20 first-place votes. Central Arkansas received two first-place nods and was chosen to finish second in league, followed by McNeese with 163 total points and Southeastern Louisiana with 136 points. Abilene Christian (68 pts.) was selected to finish eighth, rounded out by Houston Baptist (56 pts.) ninth, Northwestern State (49 pts.) 10th and Incarnate Word (48 pts.) 11th.
The preseason selection was expected by fourth-year head coach Clint Conque after SFA went 5-6 in 2016 and finished sixth in the Southland with a 4-5 conference record. Despite finishing one game below .500 last season, the 'Jacks got off to a 3-1 start and upended then 13th-ranked McNeese 31-28 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. SFA is attempting to reach the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2014 when the 'Jacks went 8-5 (5-3 Southland) during Conque's inaugural season in Nacogdoches.
Seven different Lumberjacks were named preseason all-conference a week ago, including a trio of seniors earning first-team recognition and five players placed on the second team. Senior offensive lineman Josh Keith, senior defensive end John Franklin and senior punt returner Trae Hart were each named to the first team as Hart also claimed a spot on the second team as a an all-purpose player. Junior defensive lineman Lamont Alexander, sophomore tight end Kiki Hill, sophomore wide receiver Tamrick Pace and sophomore kick returner Alize Ward earned preseason second-team honors. The 'Jacks return 37 total letter winners and 17 starters from a year ago, including nine on the offensive side of the ball, seven on defense and one on special teams.
The 91st season of SFA football gets underway in exactly 44 days with the 'Jacks heading to Dallas for their annual FBS matchup. SFA will take on the Mustangs of SMU Saturday, Sept. 2, with a 6 p.m. kickoff from Gerald J. Ford Stadium. The 'Jacks will begin the home portion of the 2017 schedule with a non-conference tilt versus Southern Utah the following week on Saturday, Sept. 9. Southland play will begin on Saturday, Sept. 16, when SFA welcomes Incarnate Word to Homer Bryce Stadium.
Conque, defensive lineman Alexander and wide receiver Pace are in Houston for 2017 Southland Conference Football Media Day taking place today. Press conferences from the league's media day will be streamed live on ESPN3 beginning with a morning session (9 a.m.-12 p.m.) and followed by an afternoon session (1:15 p.m.-4:40 p.m.). Conque, Alexander and Pace will step up to the podium at 1:45 p.m. with the head coach fielding questions from various media members as the players are interviewed on a ESPN3 set. All three will then head to the conference's social media suite from 2:15-2:40 p.m. While in the suite, the players will take part in social media segments that can be seen on the Southland's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.