CHURUBUSCO – The scene was beautiful, yet chaotic.
A mass of elementary school-aged boys, each adorned in a black football jersey w/ “Busco” in a neon colored, modern font, running haphazardly through the crowded lot each desperately yelling at the top of their lungs “Throw it to me!”
On a perfect autumn evening in this small northern Indiana town, these boys were reaching their zenith of enjoyment as they ran and played football with their friends. There would be absolutely nothing that could distract them from their fun; that is until THE Churubusco Eagles made their presence known.
As the Churubusco High School football squad walked through the tailgate lot Friday prior to its game with Northeast Corner Conference rival Eastside High on its way back to the locker room, the pre-teen kids' activity came to a screeching, silenced halt, as they watched in awe as their heroes strode past.
At that moment, the only thoughts swirling through the minds of those young kids were dreams of one day being able to take that same walk while wearing the black-and-gold.
“I've been very, very blessed,” second-year Churubusco boy's basketball coach Chris Paul told The News-Sentinel, “very, very fortunate, to land in this community. I said right away when I got over here, I didn't just have a team, I got a town.”
That is how this burg reacts towards its high school football and basketball programs. It isn't necessarily Paul's or that of fifth-year football coach Paul Sade's team, but the Eagles belong to all 1,811 of its citizenry.
“It's been really cool how this town has embraced myself and my family,” Paul said.
Paul spent over a decade leading an NCAA Division I women's program at IPFW before taking over the Eagles' boy's team last season. At first glance, many might think going from a program at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics to an IHSAA Class 2A program might be a significant step back, but in reality, it was – in many ways – a giant leap forward.
“We'd go on the road (at IPFW) and play at these wonderful institutions,” Paul said, “and we'd play in front of 500 people in a gym that was seating 15,000. Now, all of a sudden, I'm going places and we're playing in front of 2,000. It may only seat 2,000, but it feels like it is 20,000 because they are right on top of you.
“You can't beat that.”
At Friday's game, the trucks and SUVs filled the 'Busco tailgate lot early for multiple generations of Eagle fans to gather after a hard week of work. This was their highlight, as the food and drink were plentiful and the mix of AC/DC and country music blared.
The problems of this world: politics, stagnant wages, climate change, or even a crazed leader in North Korea threatening to obliterate our country, none of those things mattered a bit during that four-hour window of euphoria (as long as the Eagles win, which they often do).
“These people are just really good people,” Paul said. “They are hard workers.”
And so are their kids, which is why Paul's team won 17 games last year (including a sectional championship) and Sade's players woke up this morning in first place in the NECC with a perfect 4-0 record after annihilating Eastside 28-9.
The Eagles' blue-collar DNA is evident not only in the tailgate lot, but also on the field.
The 'Busco offense Friday consisted of running the ball right into the Blazers' defense 50 of its 55 offensive plays, as the Eagles accumulated 334 yards on the ground.
There is no finesse to Sade's gameplanning.
Defensively, 'Busco bent against the pass-happy Blazers, but it never buckled, as it beat Eastside for the first time in four years.
“We're playing a lot of teams that are bigger than us,” Sade said. “For our kids to fly around and play hard, they are going to have to make solid contact every play and play fast.”
Sade is correct in that eight of the Eagles' nine opponents this fall will have larger enrollments than 'Busco. However, none will possess the passion and spirit that permeates this entire community when it comes to supporting their beloved Eagles, and when you have an entire community lifting you up, that – and a great defense – can go a long way.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.
For more on prep football throughout northeast Indiana, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.