CHURUBUSCO — Churubusco has a lot of experience coming back from team that finished 9-2, won a Class 1A sectional game and was part of a three-way tie for the Northeast Corner Conference Small School division title.

The Eagles return eight starters on offense and six starters on defense for sixth-year coach Paul Sade. That includes arguably the area’s best quarterback-running back duo in senior signal caller Tommy Richards and senior fullback Nathaniel Keener.

Richards enters his third season starting under center after being very efficient last year by completing 56 percent of his passes (56-100) for 726 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Keener had a breakout season by rushing for 1,288 yards and 17 touchdowns while picking up the slack for Garrett Horn, who missed about all of last season due to injury.

“We’re gonna build off all the strength and power we have,” Keener said to WANE television (KPC Media Group’s news partner) at the Northeast Indiana Football Media Day in the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Expo Center on July 20.

Churubusco is typically stingy on defense under defensive coordinator Zach Dock. Junior Reese Wicker had 16 tackles for loss last year, including five sacks. Senior inside linebacker Parker Curry is the leading tackler returning with 76 total tackles last season.

Sade said the halfback rotation is more athletic than it usually is at Churubusco with versatile senior Joey Emenhiser and juniors Sam Wood, Gage Kelly and Jake Fulk in the mix. The coach said Brandt Parsons is much improved at receiver.

Key Returners: Senior FB Nathaniel Keener, junior OL/DL Reese Wicker, senior QB Tommy Richards, senior ILB Parker Curry, senior DB/HB/PK Joey Emenhiser and junior HB/DB Sam Wood. Wicker, Emenhiser and Wood are entering their third seasons as defensive starters.

Promising Newcomers: Juniors Case Lemper (OL-ILB), Jake Fulk (HB-OLB), Jake North (OL-OLB) and Blake Trostel (TE-OLB)

Strengths: Their traditional running game and the aforementioned experience.

Areas to Work On: Making the right fit with personnel and how the leadership will develop. Sade knows the players he wants to get on the field, but it’s more a matter of where they play, and that’s what the coaching staff tried to accomplish this preseason. Churubusco won’t be very deep, but it did well overcoming the injury loss of leading player Garrett Horn for about all of last season.

Keys To Success: Leadership, the Eagles’ trademark physicality and taking the next step in the bigger games. The experience and a lot of athleticism in the skilled positions will help them be a sectional title contender in Class 1A.

Key Game: at Eastside Sept. 7.