KANSAS CITY, Mo. - All four Heart of America Athletic Conference teams that finished the 2011 season with a top 25 national rankings earned a place in the 2012 NAIA Football Coaches' Spring Top 25 Poll.
League co-champion MidAmerica Nazarene claimed the highest spot among the four squads with a #5 ranking, moving up one spot from the postseason rankings. The Pioneers advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Football Championship Series before losing to eventual national champion Saint Xavier (Ill.) and ranked 8th in both scoring offense (38.0) and total offense (421.2) last season.
Fellow co-champion Missouri Valley also claimed a spot in the top 10 as the Vikings were ranked ninth in the Spring poll. Head coach Paul Troth led his team to its 9th postseason berth in program history before losing in the opening round of the playoffs to Saint Francis (Ind.) after projects 15 returning starters for the 2012 campaign.
The third team to qualify for the NAIA playoffs, Benedictine climbed two spots from its postseason ranking to claim the #11 spot in the Spring prospectus. The Ravens made a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and expect to return a trio of 1st-team all-HAAC performers on offense in Cameron Fore, Geoff Akpom and Jordan Jackson.
Baker rounds out the HAAC foursome to grab a place in the Spring Top 25, moving up two spots to #19 to give the conference four teams in the top 20. The Wildcats, who expect to return 21 starters for the 2012 season, bring a four-game winning streak into the Fall after leading the NAIA in turnover margin (+25) and tops in the conference in passing yards per game.