Spencer Conrad and Zack Armstead

Football ~ NECC will be a dogfight this season

Fairfield returns the favorite again this season with the Eagles of Churubusco right on their heels. Angola looks to grab the conference crown in 2010 with their outstanding passing game. Lakeland graduated 20 seniors from last year’s squad but leads the conference with 80 players out this season and looks to claim another title. After a 6-5 2009 season Fremont looks to expand on that this year. West Noble might be small in numbers but they are big on talent. Eastside looks to make a run toward the top. New coaches at Central Noble and Prairie Heights bring high hopes and high expectations to their programs. The 2010 NECC football season should be a dogfight from top to bottom. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the conference champion has two losses this season,” says West Noble Coach Monte Mawhorter. 

Last year it was Fairfield, Churubusco and Lakeland, all sharing the NECC title with a 7-1 record. Angola (5-3) was fourth while Fremont broke even at 4-4. Central Noble, Eastside and West Noble all finished with a 2-6 record. Prairie Heights came in last winless in eight tries.

“As we go to the weightlifting competition and see all the teams working harder in the weight room I see a lot of improvement in the conference,” explained Fairfield Coach Bob Miller. “We’re excited to see what happens week to week.”

“I think that it’s going to be an exciting year in the NECC,” added Lakeland Coach Keith Thompson, who lost twenty players to graduation. 

The Eagles open with a Fremont team that went 6-5 last season. Fremont has to replace four All-Conference defensive players. The Eagles had their first winning season in eight years. Third year coach Nick Maksimchuk has just five starters on offense. Quarterback Nick Herndon  returns to direct the triple option threat. Running backs Randy Shafer and Luke Brown add experience to the backfield. Zach Folland and Jonathon Verde return at wide receiver as does tight end Jon Hopson. On the line the Eagles have Ian Burkhart and Kody Bennett, both three year starters. Austin Hall will hold down the other tackle position. Their 3-4 defense returns six starters including Bennett, a three year starter at tackle on defense as well. Hall and Verde will join him in the trenches. At linebacker Burkhart, Brown and Hopson look to solidify the Fremont defense. Shafer, Herndon and Folland will lead the secondary with help from Trevor Wirick and Chad Workman.

Churubusco has an eight game win streak over Fremont and should extend that this season.

The Cougars have a new coach in Brandon Bitting, taking over for Trevor Tipton, who coached for twenty years at Central Noble. Bitting is excited about the upcoming season as the Cougars ended with an impressive win over Whitko in the Sectional and gave Fairfield all they wanted in the 14-6 Sectional Semi-final loss to close out their season. Coach Bitting looks to his juniors to step it up since there are only three seniors on the 2010 squad. “That’s the beauty of what the NECC is becoming,” said Coach Bitting when asked about the competitiveness in the NECC. “There is no week off. Every game every week is going to be a battle.” Junior running back, Justin Coney leads the way for the Cougars. Coney rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore last season and looks to expand on that this year. The Central Noble-Churubusco game is the longest running matchup on the Eagles’ schedule. This will be the 36th consecutive season these teams have met. Busco leads the series 21-20 and have won the last six games.

Mike Smith takes over the Prairie Heights program and looks to give it some stability. He is the third coach there in the past three seasons. Coach Smith looks for improvement from the past seasons here at Prairie Heights, not only with their record but in attitude as well. The Panthers will have to learn the new spread offense installed by Coach Smith. Lance Feeney takes over at quarterback for the Panthers while Dillon Delancy will be the feature back and joined in the backfield with Zach Beebe . Feeney will have some talented receivers in Derek Young, Chad Thomas, Ryan Chandler and Damon Lepley. The offensive line returns one starter in sophomore Justin Bodiker, he looks to get help from Andrew Amos, Tyler Harding, Logan Prough and Casey Rowe. Churubusco leads this series 23-7-1 winning the last six games against the Panthers.

Eastside Head Coach Mike Eshbach believes that this season could be a breakout year for the Blazers. Despite returning four seniors Eastside has plenty of experience on both sides of the ball. Junior Austen Brow will take the reins at quarterback. He has some outstanding targets in senior Cody Kraft and freshman Ty Lockhart, who should challenge teams with their deep threat and Aaron Sonner adds a true tight end to the Blazer offense. The offensive line of senior Jacob Hughart, juniors Dusty Butler, Andy Moore, Andrew Staley and sophomore Kyle White all come back with experience. On the defensive side Eyon Reas ILB, Jacob Hughart DE were All-Conference selections last season. Cody Kaiser and Lucas Kaiser will start at DB and Travis Shunman and Matt Beard will fill the OLB positions. Tyler Ruckman, Corey Fitzpatrick and Andrew Staley are starters on the defensive line.  “I feel that outside the top two or three there is going to be a battle for the remaining spots,” explains Coach Eshbach. “I don’t know where it will fall but it’s a long season and injuries will play a part of where teams will finish.” This will be the 45th meeting between Churubusco and Eastside with the Eagles having the advantage taking the last four and a 28-16 overall record. 

Angola Coach Luke Amstutz is looking forward to an exciting 2010 season. After a 7-3 record in his first year as Head Coach the Hornets went 5-5 in the 2009 season. With most of his key players back from last year Coach Amstutz has plenty of experience coming into the upcoming season. “This is definitely the best team that we have had since I’ve been here,” stated Coach Amstutz. “We are going to have to live up to that and execute on Fridays. After three years of understanding the program it’s time to gel together.” On offense the Hornets look to ride the arm and legs of Alexx Bauer who passed for 2,049 yards and 23 touchdowns last season while rushing for 670 yards. Bauer has plenty of talented targets in wide outs Seth Fifer, Logan Sellers, Bobby Boots along with Zac Compton at tight end. The Hornets have two quality running backs in seniors Clayton Gardner and Clay Selman. On the line Dylan Moore, Rickey Wendorf and Gus Zimmerman are the top returners. Defensively Angola is well stocked at all positions. Moore, Compton, Selman, Wendorf, and Austin Curtis lead the linebackers. Alex Mills at tackle and a secondary of Riley Zimmer, Boots, Chad Hammel will solidify the Hornet defense. Angola is still looking for its first win against Churubusco as they are 0-5 since the NECC went to the full conference schedule. 

The Chargers of West Noble look to make some noise in the NECC in the 2010 season. Monte Mawhorter will begin his 12th season as Head Coach of the Chargers. “I know from coaching for a number of years now, that the teams who fair the best through weeks and weeks of punishment and pounding and that can remain the healthiest will be the teams at the top of the conference,” explains Coach Mawhorter. The Charger offense returns eight starters led by Jake Rupright at running back. Bo Lutton will start at quarterback where he was 30-68-303 last season. Erik Mawhorter will also see action at quarterback for the Chargers. Austin Pensinger at tight end and receivers Casey Jones and Collin Mora will give opportunities through the air. On the line West Noble has some size with Michael Alexander, Jake Rodriguez, Zach Goodyear, Aaron Cart, Sabastian Burns and Nic Armstrong. The defense looks to be Pensinger, Burns, Rodriguez and Armstrong on the line. Rupright, Jones, Mora, Tyler Clark and Michael San Miguel (who missed last season with an injury) fill the linebacker slots. In the secondary Lutton, Mawhorter and Ted Fulk lead the way. West Noble has the overall advantage over the Eagles going 17-14 in the history of their series. Churubusco has won the last four straight games against the Chargers.

Perennial powerhouse Fairfield has had the Conference crown for the past four seasons and last season claimed the first Sectional in the school’s history. “It’s always exciting to me through the first two weeks to see how the chemistry of a team develops,” explains Head Coach Bob Miller. “Even with a bunch of kids back, you start new each year to see how kids mesh and how the holes get filled in. It’s been a fun two weeks.” Fairfield returns eight starters on offense led by Chase Pinion who returns at quarterback after filling in for injured Justin Scott who tore his ACL in week four. Darin Hochstetler, a 1,000 yard rusher at tailback, provides a solid ground game for the Falcons. All-State receiver Tanner Faust who had over 1,000 yards leads the wide receivers. Derek Vogelzang, Tregg Fisher and P.J. Neff  all add difficulties for opposing defenses. Jeremy Siegel, Jonathon Warstler and Dustin Graber return as leaders on the offensive line. Defensively the Falcons return eight starters with defensive backs Jared Stump, Robert Moore, Zack Newcomer and Brad Newcomer. Kyle Ostrander is a sophomore inside linebacker who the coaches expect big things from. Rounding out the defense is Adam Kolakowski at nose tackle along with ends Jordan Bontrager and Alex Hostetler. The Eagles lead the series 13-10 but Fairfield has closed the gap by winning the last four matchups.

Lakeland was hit hard graduating 20 seniors from last year’s team that shared the NECC title. Coach Keith Thompson has no returning starters on offense this season and just two on the defensive side of the ball. Cody Richardson will give the Lakers a different look at quarterback than they have had in the past. At running back, Dustin Wohlheter and Bryce Bates look to give Lakeland a strong ground game. Tanner Foster at tight end and Scott McKibben will be the go to receivers. Anchoring the line will be Zach Young, Matt Burkey, Bryan Martin and Jeff Morris. Bates leads the defense at defensive back where he had five interceptions last year. Foster will be a force at defensive end along with McKibbon at defensive back. Churubusco looks to get even with Lakeland in 2010 as the Lakers lead the overall series 14-13 even with the Eagles winning the last two games. 

Overall it should be an exciting season for Churubusco and the NECC Conference. Churubusco is looking to go deep into the postseason with a very talented team returning. 

Come out and support your Churubusco Eagles and see how the season unfolds.

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