The Big Game. The Battle of Baseline. These are the words that describe the animosity and history between these two small-school rivals.

Separated by only 16 miles, the Central Noble-Churubusco rivalry dates back to 1968, when Central Noble opened its doors after the consolidation of Albion-Jefferson and Wolf Lake. 5 years later, CN fielded their first varsity football team during the 1973 season. While Busco didn’t join the NECC until 1989, they’ve regularly scheduled Central Noble every year since 1975. 

In the all-time series, Busco leads the series 30-21. Since 2004, Busco has won 15 of their last 16 meetings against the Cougars. Back in 2017, Central Noble snapped a 14-game losing streak vs Busco with a 19-17 win in Albion. However, it’s been 2 years since they last played each other, because tragedy (within the Busco community) forced last year’s game to be cancelled. A lot has changed since that 38-7 Busco win back in 2019. The Cougars are 12-11 all-time at Cougar Field vs their arch-rivals, and they’re 8-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less. 

Third-year Central Noble head coach, Hayden Kilgore, is a 2014 Busco grad who played quarterback and free safety for Paul Sade’s Eagles. He was one of many Busco football players who have been apart of 15 winning seasons in their last 16 years. He has led the Cougars to their fourth 6-0 start in program history (they’ve finished with a perfect regular season every time they’ve started a season 6-0 so far). The last time CN entered the Busco game with an undefeated record, they won that game  41-0 over 18 years ago. However, that was a different era of football for these two programs. 

For nine-year Busco head coach, Paul Sade, he has constantly led the program to many big wins and championships, even with little depth, injuries, and now having to deal with COVID for the last two seasons. The Eagles have been known for their Wing-T offense, and their speed and physicality have created a lot of problems for Central Noble in the past.

Going into this game, these are two of the three best defensive teams in the entire NECC (the other is Eastside; all 3 teams are in the same NECC division). Central Noble’s 34.83 points per game is top 10 in all of Indiana in 2A, and their 11.67 opposing points per game is in the top 20 regardless of class. But don’t sleep on Busco’s defense as their 14.2 opposing points per game ranks them in the top 50 in the state regardless of class, and their offense is averaging 34.3 points since Week 3. 

In terms of the running game, Central Noble averages 304 rushing yards a game compare to Busco’s 220. CN senior Will Hoover has 863 rushing yards on 111 carries and 13 TD’s, but lately it has been senior Ashton Smith with 288 yards rushing on 38 carries and 5 touchdowns. Busco has a little more balance in their running game led by junior Wyatt Marks with 397 yards rushing on 71 carries and 3 touchdowns. 

The quarterbacks for both teams are interestingly talented kids that can run and throw the football effectively. Busco junior Riley Buroff has 530 passing yards with 5 TD passes, and is running for 264 yards with 7 touchdowns. Riley definitely has some chemistry with senior Nick Nondorf who has 303 receiving yards and 290 rushing yards. Central Noble sophomore Tyler Shisler has done an exceptional job in his first varsity season as the starting quarterback. Shisler has thrown for 531 yards with 3 TD passes and has ran for 239 yards with 4 touchdowns. His popular target is senior Preston Diffendarfer who has 376 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Both quarterbacks play a similar style on teams that emphasize a strong running game and a physical front 7. 

The main area many fans will be watching is their defense. For both teams, their defense is what keeps the engine running. Central Noble averages 1.8 sacks, 1.7 interceptions, and 1.67 fumble recoveries a game. Churubusco, however, is averaging 3.3 sacks, 1.2 interceptions, and 1.67 fumble recoveries a game. Both teams have exceptional talent on the defensive side. 

For the Cougars, Diffendarfer garners a lot of attention as a defensive back with 3 interceptions in 2021, and he will be covering the best receivers Busco has to offer. Ashton Smith is also very good at the free safety slot with 3 interceptions (2 coming in his team’s last game at Lakeland). Up front, it’s a deep front 7 that plays both ways, but it’s the play of Logan Hawk and Ashton Dunlap who are the leading the way with a combined 111 tackles. 

On the other side, Busco has playmakers as well on defense led by 2020 all-state defensive tackle Hunter Bianski. So far in his senior season, Bianski has 56 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Sophomores Weston Rinker and Cullen Blake have a combined 7 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 90 tackles. Busco’s pass coverage is led by Kameron Rinker and Nick Nondorf with 2 interceptions. Of these two, Nondorf has proven to be a lethal defender averaging 23.5 yards per return and already has a pick six. If you’re Central Noble, you cannot allow Nondorf to have a field day.

This game is going to come down to

  1. How well both quarterbacks are running the offense against very talented defenses.
  2. Which team can control the line of scrimmage
  3. Turnovers
  4. Discipline

These two teams clearly don’t like each other, and I’m not exaggerating this. If you haven’t seen a football game between these two, this week’s game is a must-watch. There are very few small-school rivalries that are as intense as this one, and these are two very good football teams. It doesn’t get better than this. Let’s play football!