By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-The Broncbusters are still reaping the rewards of the program's first-ever national championship.
Garden City was slotted third in the NJCAA preseason poll released on Monday, their second-highest preseason ranking in program history.
"It shows how far this program has come," Sims said. "But it's not what you're ranked at the beginning of the year that matters. It's where you stand of the end of the season.
The truth of the matter is this: the volatility of junior-college football does not help previous national champions. Only four times in the history of the NJCAA has a team won back-to-back titles: East Mississippi in 2013-14; Butler 2007-08, 1998-99 and Blinn 1995-96.
"I believe the best team in the country will come out of the Jayhawk Conference this year," Sims said. "This league is supremely talented."
It is the first time Garden City has been ranked in the preseason top 10 since 2008 when they were ninth coming off a 7-3 season under Lucas Aslin. It is their highest ranking since 2001 when they were No. 2. They also were second in 1998 following their first national-championship game appearance.
"Last year was an incredible ride," Sims admitted. "But we aren't worried about that now. All we are concerned about is being the best team on Aug. 24 against Ellsworth. 1-0 everyday!"
Over the past 20 years, Garden City has landed in the preseason polls 14 times. During that same time period, the Broncbusters have been picked in the top five three times: fourth in 2002; second in 2001 and second in 1998.
"We have a lot of young talent on this team," said Sims, who was named the NJCAA Coach of the Year in 2016. "But they still have to buy into what we are doing."
Following a 3-8 campaign in 2015, the Broncbusters ran the table last season, ascending from middling conference team to a national power. They reached No. 1 on Oct. 17, for the first time since the final regular-season poll in 2000. They stayed there over the final five weeks of the season before taking down No. 2 Arizona Western in the national championship game.
The Matadors, last year's national runner-up, will start the season No. 1, while last year's preseason favorite East Mississippi is second. Trinity Valley and Lackawanna round out the top five. Dodge City came in 15th and Independence, under former Garden City offensive Coordinator Jason Brown, is 17th.
The Broncbusters open the regular season Thursday, Aug. 24 at home against Ellsworth. You can listen to the game on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and the KWKR mobile app.