PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — There’s a reason the Pekin Dragons feel good about the upcoming football season.

In fact several reason. The Dragons return seven starters on offense and defense from an eight-win playoff team a year ago.

“These seniors have been around a successful program for a while,” said head coach Doug Nutter. “They know the expectations set by the guys before them.”

The 2019 Dragons won a Mid-Illini Conference championship and made the playoffs. There were no Illinois High School Association football playoffs for the 2020 season in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So the Dragons are looking for a third straight playoff season. And among the key returning starters are running backs Tanner Sprecher and Kanye Tyler, each a senior coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2021.

“We have so much talent coming back,” Tyler said. “We put our team in a position to win. I feel like we’ll have no problem taking the game home.”

Also back is starting quarterback Scott Jordan.

“We’re going to put up a lot of points this year,” said Jordan, now a senior. “That’s how it’s going to go. we have a couple different people that will help the team out.”

Tyler is a huge factor for Pekin, offensively out of the backfield, defensively in the secondary and on special teams as a kick returner. He’s one of the most versatile and exciting players in the state hoping hoping for a big year from his team and his college recruiting.

“College coaches obviously come into the mix,” said Tyler, who has an offer from Illinois State. “But this is my main focus. I’ve got my team to focus on. We’re working on winning that first game.”

Pekin opens the season at home against Rock Island on Aug. 26.