FROM LEFT: Row 1: Kyle Bowsher, Zack Smelcer, Tim Petrella, Marcus Gierke, Gage Haws, Michael Loughman, Ryan Cates, John Balicki, Jordan Chiow, Mitch Linhart, Larry Lauger. Row 2: Anthony Webb, Joel Bell, Eric Peverly, Kyle Bell, Bobby Snook, Colton Bond, Chase Cook, Brandon May, Dylan Vandeneynde, Chris Warrington, Casey Fowler, Marcus McGhee. Row 3: Mitch Rhodes, Chase Conkle, Grant Kinsinger, Justin Iott, Isaiah Settles, Trey Cruz, Cody Proehl, Cody Cornwell, Austin Combs, Allan Hartley, Colton Smith. Row 4: Matt Groves, Matt Loughman, Tanner Hindall, Cole Smith, Trevor Springer, Storm Shepard, Alec Rhodes, Nathan Craft, Mason Rose, Jacob Schimmoeller, Jeff Gierke.
Coach: Tim Nichols, sixth year
Last season: 10-2, 8-1 Blanchard Valley Conference
Returning letter winners: 12
Returning starters: Offense 7, defense 3
Schemes: flexbone-spread hybrid/4-3
Top players: Seniors Kyle Bowsher, 5-11, 164, WR/CB; Larry Lauger, 5-9, 175, C/LB; Mitch Linhart, 6-3, 185, QB/DB; Matt Loughman, 5-11, 261, OG/DT; Zack Smelcer, 6-0, 246, OT/DE. Juniors Joel Bell, 5-7, 163, RB/DB; Chase Cook, 5-11, 150, WR/DB.
Outlook: The Eagles made a run at the BVC title and also won a playoff game. To chase another league title and playoff berth, the Eagles will need the offense to gel quickly to bolster a young defense.
Among the returnees on offense are quarterback Mitch Linhart, a three-year starter who was named All-BVC second team after throwing for 523 yards while running for 182 in just four games, as well as a veteran offensive line that includes seniors Larry Lauger, Matt Loughman and Zack Smelcer.
"I hope we'll be able to run the football," Nichols said. "We'll have a sophomore running back in Austin Combs, but we have good players on the offensive line."
The defense has just three starters returning including Lauger, an all-conference first-teamer on the line, and senior Kyle Bowsher, a cornerback who was second team.
"We have some players who have talent, but they just haven't played on a Friday night," Nichols said. "They are unproven at this point. Our defense is going to have to be an aggressive bunch. Our kids believe in what we're doing. They show up to practice every day and give us good effort."
2012 LIBERTY-BENTON SCHEDULE
Aug. 25-at Fremont St. Joseph
Aug. 31-at Arlington
Sept. 7-at McComb
Sept. 21-at Cory-Rawson
Sept. 28-at Arcadia
Oct. 5-at Hardin Northern
Oct. 26-Van Buren