PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — The Pekin Dragons earned a share of the 2019 Mid-Illini Conference football title and they think they’ll be a factor in the conference race this year.

Bolstered by a big freshmen class (50 players), Pekin has roughly 120 players out for football this fall. But the Dragons aren’t talking about the new blood in the program.

They believe their strength is in a returning core of two-year starters like junior running back Kanye Tyler.

“We all know what we’re doing, we have a great mind, we’ve all been with each other for a while,” Tyler said. “I’m really supportive of this team. I just know we’re going to do really well this year.”

Pekin returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense, according to coach Doug Nutter. He says the front seven on the Dragons’ defense is back and may be the strength of the team that has its eyes on making a playoff run.

“We’ve been together for nine years, as long as we’ve played JFL,” said senior lineman Caleb Cope. “It’s the chemistry and how well we’ve been together that’s going to help us out a lot.”

Pekin opens the season at rock Island on Aug. 27.