Three-time defending Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) champion Missouri Valley received six of ten first place votes to claim one point more than Baker and sit atop the 2014 HAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, released Tuesday afternoon at the annual Media Day festivities at the NAIA national office.

Three-time defending Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) champion Missouri Valley received six of ten first place votes to claim one point more than Baker and sit atop the 2014 HAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, released Tuesday afternoon at the annual Media Day festivities at the NAIA national office.
The Vikings took 77 of the possible 81 voting points as the coaches' choice to win a fourth-straight championship. Baker, which claimed the remaining four first place votes, tallied 76 points after winning a share of its first conference title since 1993. The two teams, who each advanced to the 2013 NAIA Football Championship Series quarterfinal round, will meet on the final day of the regular season, Nov. 15, at Liston Stadium in Baldwin City, Kan.
The final team to claim a share of last season's title was Benedictine, which was picked to finish third after garnering 65 voting points. Peru State was picked to repeat its best-ever finish in the conference after finishing in fourth place last season, while MidAmerica Nazarene was picked to finish fifth after sharing fourth with the Bobcats in 2013.
The second half of the poll was nearly identical to the finish from last season's standings. Evangel tallied 44 points to take sixth position; Central Methodist was picked to finish seventh with 29 points, while Avila (21 points), Culver-Stockton (19) and Graceland (15) finished out the poll.
Representing Peru State along with Bobcat head coach Steve Schneider at the HAAC Football Media Day were seniors Tyler Ford (Lincoln) and Shane Lloyd (Ridgecrest, Calif.).  

After wishing all of the teams good luck for the entire season, Coach Schneider introduced Ford, an offensive lineman, and Lloyd, a linebacker – both of whom earned all-conference recognition last season.  Schneider then addressed the crowd by sharing his expectations of the upcoming season on the various aspects with the football team.  These four areas included: 1) expectations, 2) leadership, 3) discipline, and 4) being a physical football team.
Continuing, Schneider noted the team this fall will have more depth on both sides of the ball.  He remarked the defense is working on not giving up as many big plays.  Offensively, Schneider discussed the aspect of losing three wide receivers.  He mentioned that the offense the team needs to do a better job of throwing the ball.
At that point, questions were asked from the crowd.  Schneider was asked about Tyler Audsley (Prescott Valley, Ariz.) moving back to the defense and he responded that Audsley would be playing both ways.   He also noted it was great to have Bo Shepard (Gretna) back, but Audsley will still play a role in the offense while also being a starting defensive back.
Another question asked of Schneider was about the excitement level due to the renovation of the Oak Bowl.  Schneider stated that the facilities are important and shared his appreciation to the state of Nebraska as well as Dr. Hanson, president of Peru State, and Todd Simpson, Peru State Foundation Executive Director, for their support. "It should be exciting going forward, but we also have some work to do to finish the entire project" commented Schneider.
When asked about the rise in the conference over the time in the HAAC, from eighth to sixth to now fourth in the preseason polls, Schneider discussed the overall success of the Bobcat football program over the years, including a national championship in 1990.  Schneider added that if the team does the things they are taught and know how to do in the right way, success will come.

Ford fielded the first question from the media which was not being able to play in the Oak Bowl last season and playing all of their home games on different fields.  His response was that it was a challenge and a struggle and they got by it.  Lloyd stated, "It was a struggle to begin with, but that Coach (Schneider) kept reminding us that it didn't matter where we were playing, it was still a field and we just had to do what we knew how to do."  In addition, Lloyd added that the renovations will help and that it will be a motivation playing in the Oak Bowl this fall.
Lloyd took the next question which was how the defense was going to respond since their top three tacklers last season had graduated and what was he going to do.  He said that individually, he was working on improving his leadership ability.  Being a fifth-year senior, Lloyd plans on leading by example.  And yes, the guys lost were huge losses, but Lloyd anticipates that the defense will step up again this year.
Asked about the mood of the team after a successful 2013 campaign, Ford stated that the mood was somewhat bittersweet as the team had made tremendous strides, but it was disappointing to some extent as they knew they had missed opportunities to win a few more games.  Also, Ford added, it did provide them with more motivation to get better in the off-season and to work hard this fall.
In conclusion, Schneider stated that the team had dropped several games down the stretch after going 7-1 as they had run out of gas.  "With eight ACL surgeries, with most to back-ups who had played a lot, the rest of the team was a little beat up and we lacked additional depth.  In the spring, we re-grouped and Coach Derr (strength and conditioning coach) worked with the team to help prepare the team in the off-season." Schneider also added that the team will follow their plan to get better each and every week.  In conclusion, Schneider talked about how the team was resilient last year about playing every game technically on the road last season and they look forward to playing in the Oak Bowl this year.
The HAAC 2014 football season kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 23, when Evangel makes a nearly 1,300-mile journey to take on first-year program Arizona Christian in Phoenix, Ariz. All ten teams will host games on Saturday, September 13, in the 2nd Annual HAAC-KCAC Football Series with each team taking on the KCAC team that finished in the same position in the 2013 standings at the KCAC site. Head-to-head conference play begins the following Saturday, September 20.
2014 HAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll

School (First Place Votes) - Points
1. Missouri Valley (6) - 77
2. Baker (4) - 76
3. Benedictine - 65
4. Peru State - 56
5. MidAmerica Nazarene - 48
6. Evangel - 44
7. Central Methodist - 29
8. Avila - 21
9. Culver-Stockton - 19
10. Graceland - 15