FORT WORTH, Texas—The Sooner Athletic Conference hosted the inaugural SAC football media day at the historic Davey O’Brien Sports Lounge at the Fort Worth Club on Thursday.
The event included Commissioner Stan Wagnon’s announcement of the 2018 SAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll that predicted Panhandle State to finish fourth among the nine football playing schools in the SAC.
Panhandle State athletic director Meghan Mulcahy was present at the event and commented, “This is a great experience for the players and coaches. It is an excellent way to showcase our football teams and the growth of the Sooner Athletic Conference.”
The media day event kicked off Wednesday evening with a rooftop dinner at the Reata in downtown Fort Worth for the entire group of coaches, players and administration.
Representatives were present from each of the nine SAC programs including: Arizona Christian, Langston, Lyon College, Ottawa-Arizona, Panhandle State, Southwestern Assemblies of God, Texas College, Texas Wesleyan and Wayland Baptist, as well as conference administration.
TWU served as the host institution and had many athletic boosters and supporters in attendance to greet guests and assist with the two-day affair. Former NFL offensive lineman Cory Proctor offered a motivational presentation which captivated the crowd. Proctor’s message of “Get rid of the noise; be a leader; and keep moving forward,” resonated with the young athletes.
On Saturday, local press and media from throughout the conference area gathered to witness history in the making. Commissioner Wagnon opened with a statement about the long-standing championship traditions of the Sooner Athletic Conference and how adding football would strengthen the league and increase visibility nationwide.
After announcing the results of the coaches’ poll, Wagnon announced the preseason offensive, defensive and special teams players of the year before bringing each team up for a brief question and answer segment.
Head coach Russell Gaskamp offered comments on his teams’ position stating, “I am not surprised that we were ranked fourth in the league. We lost a lot of really good players last year, especially on the offensive line, and we are going to be a significantly different team than last year.” He added, “The question we will find out the answer to is, Will we be better or worse? We have some depth chart questions to work out during camp, starting with who is going to lead our team at quarterback; so early in the season we are going to have to rely heavily on the defensive side of the ball.”
Defensively, the Aggies bring back several key playmakers including linebacker Nathan Leithead who was named the SAC preseason defensive player of the year. Gaskamp feels the defense, under the direction of defensive coordinator LeMarcus Gibson, has a chance to be “very good” this year. “That all starts with Nate and our linebacker crew,” Gaskamp added. “Between him, Jawan Purifoy and D’Darrin Primes, we have three very productive and proven players.”
Leithead, a junior from Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado led the team in tackles last year amassing 69 total tackles with 32 solos. He added 2.5 sacks and one interception to help the Aggies turn in the No. 7 ranked Total Defense in the nation.
Panhandle State football finished 2017 with a No. 24 final team ranking among all NAIA programs, which leads Gaskamp and his coaching staff to focus on achieving new heights for 2018. A complete listing of the coaches’ poll and preseason awards is available on the Sooner Athletic Conference website, along with the full release.
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