WICHITA— Bethany College started off hot last season at 5-1 but turned cold after losing four straight games to end their 2017 season. After finishing 5-5 (4-5 in KCAC) of the year, head coach Paul Hubbard hopes to learn from last season and finish strong after a great start.

Hubbard is going into his fourth season with the Swedes. He believes that there's no clearcut favorite in the KCAC Conference and that every team has a chance of winning it all.

"We started off really fast last year. We need to start fast this year again, and we just need to finish," Hubbard said."It's a great conference. The thing is the top teams stays on the top, and the bottom starts to catch up. It's a matter of who stays the healthiest and who win the ball games."

One of Hubbard's concerns for Bethany is durability. Injuries helped played a factor in losing four straight, and Hubbard wants his players to avoid injuries despite the aggressiveness they have on the team.

"We've got to protect ourselves, and we want to be aggressive and a lot of our injury is because of our aggression," Hubbard said.

A total of 18 starters will be returning for the Swedes. Hubbard believes that this could be one of his most talented team yet and is excited for whats to come. With injuries playing a role, a lot of young players had to step in. For Hubbard, it brings some positives going into this season now that the Swedes are more experienced.

"We just got to make sure that we stay healthy," Hubbard said. "We've done a good job learning how to overcome adversity, and part of that was being youthful. We were young making the mistakes, but now we're getting older, my freshmen are now seniors, they know how to handle adversity."

Hubbard will have a new defensive coordinator after the departure of Lavell Jackson. Eric Morris, who coached the defensive linemen, was promoted as the new defensive coordinator and he and Hubbard will work together in calling defensive plays this season.

"Losing coach Jackson was a hit," Hubbard said. "He's one of my best friends and is good defensive coordinator and great DB coach. It also cast more excitement for me because I wanted to get involved with the defense. So one turn I'm losing a great friend, but another turn I'm getting myself involved with the defense along with coach Morris, giving him a promotion."

"When I first took this job, I didn't focus on anything else but being a head coach,"Hubbard continued. "Once I figured out how to do that in the best that I possibly could, the itch came back to coach. I knew when Coach Jackson left that I will be part of it some how."

The Swedes will open this season on the road in a non-conference game at Benedictine College on Aug.25 at 2 p.m.. The week after they will face the McPherson College Bulldogs at McPherson Stadium. Their first home opener will be on Sept.8 against Bethel College at 7 p.m.

Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at pholland@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports