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updated: 8/14/2013 10:58 PM

Change brings fresh start for West Chicago, Lake Park

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These are the two that got the ball rolling.

On Wednesday West Chicago and Lake Park officially started their football seasons, having swapped positions in conferences they'd long been affiliated with -- West Chicago leaving the DuPage Valley and taking Lake Park's spot in the Upstate Eight, specifically the Valley Division. Separately, both schools had considered moving for years.

Before the Metro Suburban Conference accepted seven schools from the Suburban Christian effective in the 2014-15 academic year, leaving the SCC's remaining football powers scrambling into the Chicago Catholic League ... before Glenbard East and West Aurora pined over their invitations to join the UEC next school year -- there were Lake Park and West Chicago.

Lake Park, a member of the UEC since 1979, tipped the first domino. Last October the Lancers joined the DVC for fuller participation at all levels of all sports than it felt some UEC schools could provide.

West Chicago was a charter member of the DVC, which formed in 1975. After its boys programs finished last in conference standings 25 of 37 years and its girls finished last 24 times, the Wildcats sought a place where they'd be more competitive.

"I don't think it would have happened if it wasn't for how much sense it made for both conferences," said Lake Park football coach Chris Roll.

Exchanging spots with Lake Park in the UEC Valley, where the Lancers went 3-3 each of the past two seasons and 2-4 in 2010, West Chicago likewise won't find easy pickings this fall against the likes of Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley and Bartlett. Conference shuffling isn't over yet, and it's anticipated the Wildcats will move into the River.

"It's a great conference," said West Chicago's second-year football coach Bill Bicker.

"I think the kids are going to be excited for football season no matter what," he said. "I think now there's just this new anticipation in the air. We're going to see new teams, new opponents. That gives (the Wildcats) not that many preconceived notions."

A West Chicago assistant from 2001-07, the main thing Bicker said he'd miss about the DuPage Valley Conference is the relationships he'd forged with opposing coaches.

"Those are very, very good guys," he said.

Roll will realize that if he hasn't already. The third-year head coach is a 1991 graduate of Lake Park, which in past seasons had nonconference contracts with DVC squads Wheaton North, Naperville Central and, for the last four years prior to this season, Glenbard East. Roll prepared against each of those teams as Lancers quarterbacks coach.

He said his players are "super excited" about playing in arguably the state's top football conference. Roll said from top to bottom the DVC has no weakness, which is indicated in Lake Park's 2-2 nonconference mark against Glenbard East, not typically among DVC powers.

"The elite teams in the UEC are completely compatible with the elite teams in the DVC, but I think the overall strength of the DVC will be a step up for us in competition," said Roll, who will have a new turf field to play on.

There must be closure, however, to what Lake Park and West Chicago started. The departure of Glenbard East and West Aurora in 2014-15 means there already are two open dates on next year's DVC schedule. An eight-team conference remains the goal.

"We are all excited about starting this football season," Roll said, "but there's this looming issue."

To be continued.

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