As it stands today from a football perspective, the Suburban Christian Conference should go out with a bang.
The SCC Blue, the stronger of the two divisions, seems maybe the strongest it's ever been. Montini has won four straight Class 5A titles and Aurora Christian two straight in Class 3A. Marian Central's only problem last season was taking its sole loss in the state quarterfinals to Montini.
It used to be that to have any shot at an SCC title a team needed to beat the "Three M's" -- Montini, Marmion, Marian Central. It's deeper than that now.
For instance to make the playoffs St. Edward -- which returns the most talent and depth in coach Mike Rolando's nine seasons -- has to play much-improved St. Francis and a better Marmion squad, Marian Central and all three teams that tied for last year's SCC Gold title, IC Catholic Prep, Wheaton Academy and Aurora Central Catholic. Fortunately for the Green Wave, teams don't play every divisional foe, and they avoid Aurora Christian and Montini.
"It starts and ends with Montini, we all know that," said Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe, whose only loss came to the Broncos in Lombard, 31-27.
That is somewhat of a literal statement. Montini, a charter member of the Suburban Catholic Conference before its 2009 expansion, will be playing football next season in the Chicago Catholic League. Montini, Marmion, St. Francis, Marian Central and Aurora Christian will head there while Aurora Central, IC, Wheaton Academy, St. Edward, Chicago Christian, Guerin and Walther Lutheran move to the Metro Suburban Conference.
It wasn't as stealthy as the Baltimore Colts moving to Indianapolis under cloak of night, but the stronger teams were definitely surprised considering that since 2009 the SCC's existing athletic directors "bent over backward," in the words of Marian Central coach Ed Brucker, to help the newcomers vie for conference titles and playoff qualification.
After the Metro Suburban move was finalized last spring, it was suspected hard feelings may arise on the field. Montini coach Chris Andriano doesn't believe that. He's not thinking of next year, either.
"We're playing for this year, we're playing for right now," he said.
Why not? The Broncos don't return numbers from their fourth straight state championship team, but those back bring quality: Quarterback Alex Wills, offensive lineman Anthony Ferraro, defensive lineman Edgar Ruano, linebacker Mike Maduko, receiver Tyler Tumpane and two seniors named among the top 19 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com, Ohio State commit Dylan Thompson at defensive end and Oak Park transfer linebacker Nile Sykes.
Usual suspects Aurora Christian and Marian Central must fill specific areas -- skill positions for Aurora Christian, a Division I graduate in quarterback Chris Streveler for Marian Central -- but should get that done. Marian Central returns back Ephraim Lee, dangerous running and catching passes; Aurora Christian is heavily experienced on both sides of the line.
"Those kids believe," Marmion coach Dan Thorpe said of Aurora Christian. "They have an aura about them."
SCC Blue teams on the uptick are St. Francis and Marmion. St. Francis senior running back James Butler transferred from Bartlett before his junior season but was ruled ineligible last season. Spartans coach Greg Purnell called Butler one of the most explosive players he's had in a 40-year career.
Marmion returns all three starting linebackers, a possible 1,000-yard back in Jordan Glasgow and a highly regarded quarterback, Brock Krueger, who split time there last season but now has the job to himself.
The SCC Gold looks to be a tossup. Aurora Central returns 13 starters, the Chargers' first playoff team since 1997. Wheaton Academy returns most of its starting line including all-conference tackle Taylor Johnson, blocking for another all-conference player, John Gemmel.
Immaculate Conception graduated a slew of talent, but reflecting on shutout losses to IC each of the last two seasons -- and 14 straight losses to the Knights -- Aurora Central coach Brian Casey gives the blue-and-white great respect.
"I would tell you for a third straight year that for the third straight year IC's the top dog," said Casey, who scored a coup with the hiring of retired Downers Grove South coach John Belskis as new ACC defensive coordinator.
"That is going to be a war," chipped in IC coach Billy Krefft.
Due to strength of schedule and conference dissolution, the SCC of 2013 will be a war of attrition.
"It's a little disappointing with the breakdown of the conference," Beebe said.