If Navarro was looking for respect, the Bulldogs sure didn’t get much from the coaches in the Southwest Junior College Football Coaches preseason poll that was released Friday at SWJCFC Media Day in Lindale, where the coaches picked the Bulldogs as the No. 6 team in the eight-team conference.
No. 1 Blinn, Kilgore, Northeastern Oklahoma, Tyler, and Trinity Valley were picked to finish ahead of Navarro in that order. The Bulldogs were picked to finish ahead of only Cisco and New Mexico Military.
The race was so close a year ago that five teams battled for the top four spots that determined who would go to the conference playoffs, and with a week left there was a chance there could be a five-way tie.
Navarro fared much better with members of the media and finished fourth in the pre-season media poll.
Blinn, Kilgore and Northeastern Oklahoma were picked 1-2-3 in the media poll. Navarro was picked ahead of TVCC, Tyler, Cisco and NMMI.
In the coaches poll, four teams received first-place votes.
In the media poll, Blinn picked up five of the eight first-place votes, and Kilgore, which won the title last season, received three first-place votes.
Kilgore actually had more first-place votes than Blinn in the coaches poll with five, but Blinn, which had just one coach pick the Bucs for first, was the overall choice in a crowded field. NEO and Tyler also had one vote for first-place.
In the media poll, Blinn and Kilgore combined to draw all the first-place votes. Between third and sixth, a total of 11 voting points separate NEO, Navarro, TVCC and Tyler.
If the media poll is any indication, it could be another tight race, and Navarro could have a big advantage if the race is close.
The Bulldogs were unbeaten at home last year, including a comeback victory over Kilgore, which beat Navarro in the playoffs at Kilgore.
The Bulldogs play most of their big conference games at Tiger Stadium this season, including their home opener on Sept. 7 against conference favorite Blinn.
They play Tyler at home on Sept. 14 and face NEO at home on Sept. 28, and play their season finale at home against rival TVCC Oct. 26.
That schedule could be a huge advantage for the Bulldogs and new coach Scott Parr, who has the biggest weapon in the conference in quarterback Parker McNeil, who was the leading passer in the nation a year ago.
McNeil led the NJCAA in passing yards per game (490) and touchdown passes and Navarro averaged 36.4 points a game.
He threw for 2,9889 yards and 26 touchdowns during the regular season a year ago.
Navarro finished 6-5 a year ago after losing in the Salt City Bowl in Hutchinson, Kansas on a miserable day that included freezing temperatures and a blasting wind that knocked down the Dawgs’ passing game all afternoon.
Hutchinson was playing a home game in the Salt City Bowl, but no one showed up in the brutal conditions and a crowd of only about 200 saw Navarro lose 35-6.
Now Parr takes over a program that hopes to improve on the bleak ending with a big year.
The Bulldogs will open their season on the road Aug. 22 against Georgia Military. They play Kilgore the next week in Kilgore in their conference opener before playing Blinn at Tiger Stadium.