• KCAC MEDIA DAY THURSDAY — One of my favorite events of the year occurs on Thursday when the KCAC conducts its annual Football Media Day in Wichita.
It’s a good time of fellowship and fact-gathering, as the conference’s coaches will be on hand for the media to grill them about the upcoming season. There’s only one new coach this year, Friends’ Dion Meneley. He replaces the uber-popular Monty Lewis, who was ousted to the surprise of many after a nice 14-year run.
I like the fact it’s a little earlier as last year’s event was scheduled when some of the teams had players reporting that day and the coaches were rushing to get back and some weren’t able to bring their staffs.
Paul Mierkiewicz enters his third year as McPherson College coach and the Bulldogs are still in the rebuilding process. Since finishing 5-6 in 2014, the Bulldogs have won just once in the last two years.
When Mierkiewicz — who had a successful run at Hastings College in Nebraska and regularly beat teams from the KCAC — inherited the team, all that was remaining was about two dozen players. He practically had to recruit an entirely new team, as he started nearly a dozen freshmen his first year and while the number dropped some last year, the Bulldogs were still far and away the youngest team in the KCAC.
Mierkiewicz has done a good job of retention in his two years, but the Bulldogs’ inexperience showed. They were the KCAC’s hard-luck team last year as their 1-10 record was deceiving. Their final game was a microcosm of the season when they lost 18-15 on the final play to Bethany on a 46-yard field goal.
Other close losses were to Nebraska Wesleyan (34-29), Bethel (10-7), Ottawa (55-52), Friends (21-19) and Saint Mary (17-7).
The Bulldogs are dealing with a tragedy to their family as All-KCAC defensive back Braden Bush passed away over the summer from an asthma attack. Bush was expected to be one of the KCAC’s best players and it’s a pall that will be cast over the season. Mac also must replace defensive standouts Travis Steenson and Dalton Whitfield, both of whom were among the best in the conference.
I spoke with “Merk” this week and he says recruiting is still on-going as the Bulldogs hope to have a good-sized roster report next month.
• SHRINE BOWL SATURDAY — For those unable to make the hour drive to El Dorado Saturday night for the Shrine Bowl, Cox subscribers can watch the game on Channel 22.
McPherson High is well represented with future Fort Hays State Tigers Jared Ruth and Jack Reifschneider playing for the West team. Hesston’s Zach Esau, bound for Bethel, is among their teammates and Clint Rider, who left Hesston after last season, is a West assistant coach. Rider is now the head coach at Class 6A Blue Valley Northwest.
Defense normally dominates these All-Star contests, except for last year. The West does have a couple of huge offensive linemen, however, in Josh Rivas of Hutchinson and Ben Adler of Trinity, but more familiar to McPherson fans for having played at Winfield until his junior year. There’s a couple of good backs on the roster as well in Jacob Murray of Great Bend and Nathan Pauly of Garden Plain. I’ll be interested to see who quarterbacks as I know Hesston’s Esau and Maize South’s Ethan Richardson (who had a big playoff game against McPherson High) are more than capable.
• ROYALS AFTER LIRIANO? — I’ve always been a big Francisco Liriano fan when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Liriano always seems to give the Kansas City Royals fits. Now there are numerous reports the Royals could be engaging in talks with Toronto to acquire the veteran left-hander.
It’s another signal to the players by Dayton Moore that he’s doing everything he can to make the playoffs. Liriano is 33, but has been a Major Leaguer for 12 years and has playoff experience. Given the Royals’ starting pitching, if they could pick up Liriano for a relatively inexpensive price, I’d do it. When he’s on, he’s tough to beat.
Speaking of the Royals, the debuts of former San Diego Padres Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer in the blowout of Detroit on Wednesday were impressive. Buchter needed only 8 pitches to get through his inning and while Maurer had to escape a bases-loaded jam, the fact he struck out the side and ramped up the radar gun to 99 caused some heads to turn. They’re certainly going to be assets down the stretch, along with starting pitcher Trevor Cahill. Cahill makes his Royals debut on Saturday against the Red Sox.