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The Metro Suburban Conference football standings became pretty crowded at the top last season.
Glenbard South and Fenton plan on separating themselves from the pack before the field becomes much more crowded a year from now.
While the Raiders and Bison perennially have been contenders for the MSC title, Elmwood Park claimed last year's title behind a 20-19 Week 5 victory over Glenbard South. The Raiders and Tigers wound up with the same 3-1 MSC record, but the head-to-head advantage earned Elmwood Park the outright title -- its first in 27 years.
Glenbard South and Fenton want the title back as the MSC prepares for a major facelift after this school year. The conference will double in size starting in 2014-15 with the addition of Suburban Christian Conference defectors Aurora Central, Chicago Christian, Guerin, IC Catholic Prep, St. Edward, Walther Lutheran and Wheaton Academy.
The result will be two divisions within the MSC and, hopefully, the birth of a new and successful football era.
"Having two six-team divisions, I think that'll be great for the schedule and for building competitive bonds," said Glenbard South coach Jeremy Cordell. "It'll be interesting to see some rivalries build."
For now the existing rivalries will suit the existing five teams just fine.
Like last season, Glenbard South enters as the favorite to win the championship behind a group of skill players unmatched in the MSC. Quarterback Alex Jeske, running back Zach Smith and receiver Clark Gary return with four experienced linemen.
Considering the Raiders scored 153 points in their three MSC victories last season, you can expect some overheating scoreboards again.
"We had a great off-season," Cordell said. "I think we're ready to hit the ground running."
Fenton reaps the benefits of a young team last season by returning 13 starters -- nine on defense, including its entire back seven. If Glenbard South has the MSC's dominant offense, linebackers Phil Espinosa and Alex Stitgen form the core of one of the most formidable defenses for the Bison.
The Bison should be more effective on offense as well with the return of junior quarterback Willie Wassmann, who threw for 1,600 yards as a sophomore.
"Willie has grown tremendously physically and mentally," said Fenton coach Mark Kos. "He's still a junior, and he's only going to get better."
After its performance last season, no one's looking past Elmwood Park. The Tigers return all-MSC linebacker Trent Woods in addition to honorable mention running back James Angelico.
Riverside-Brookfield, with returning quarterback Jack VandeMerkt, and Ridgewood look to rebound from disappointing 2012 campaigns.
"I think most of us would agree Glenbard South is the favorite going into the season," Kos said. "Traditionally, we've been in the top two or three, so we expect to be in the mix."
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