BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor is the favorite to win the American Southwest Conference football title, according to the league’s preseason coaches and media poll. The Crusaders received 23 of the 30 first-place votes and totaled 293 points in balloting of the conference’s head coaches, sports information directors and selected media members.

UMHB, which is ranked No. 2 nationally after advancing to the NCAA Division III championship game for the second straight season last year, has won at least a share of 15 of the last 16 conference titles. The Crusaders open the season Sept. 8 against Albright in Reading, Pa.

Hardin-Simmons was second in the league poll, followed by East Texas Baptist, Texas Lutheran, Southwestern, Sul Ross State, Louisiana College, McMurry, Howard Payne and Belhaven.

UMHB senior linebacker Tevin Jones was voted ASC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The Belton product earned All-America honors last season after leading the Crusaders with 129 tackles, including 13½ for loss and four sacks. He set school records with 19 tackles against ETBU and a 93-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Southwestern.

Hardin-Simmons senior running back Jaquan Hemphill garnered the preseason honor on offense, and senior teammate Reese Childress received the special teams honor.

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