It's Week 8 of the football season and we have way too much to talk about regarding the chase to the playoffs and beyond.
But before we can do that, we have to talk about last week's announcement by Wheaton North principal Matt Biscan that the Falcons and Wheaton Warrenville South have engaged in talks with Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North to form a new conference with two unnamed schools.
With meetings reportedly scheduled again this week, we'll know something definitive pretty soon. The Wheatons must decide to leave the DuPage Valley Conference by Dec. 1 in order to join the new conference for the 2018-19 school year.
This week's Eyes on Five looks at this possible new conference from four points of view: the two Wheaton schools, the four Tri-Cities schools, the remaining DVC schools and the two unnamed schools.
1. The Wheatons:
Wheaton North and WW South, original members of the DVC, felt this moment coming last school year when the conference added Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley. It was the culmination of a series of moves that saw West Chicago, Glenbard East and West Aurora leave the league and Lake Park enter it.
Faced with a growing enrollment disparity, the Wheaton schools needed to explore their options. WW South is the DVC's smallest school with an enrollment of 2,036, and Wheaton North is second smallest at 2,093.
With enrollments between 2,576 and 3,764, the three Valleys, Naperville Central and Naperville North represent five of the league's six largest schools.
The enrollment disparity is real, but how much does it affect competitiveness? That's the debate swirling throughout the DVC.
The Wheaton schools have been competitive in many non-football sports and only recently began to struggle in football. WW South has been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight year, and Wheaton North will be eliminated for a third straight year if it loses either of its last two games.
If the Wheaton schools decide to leave the DVC, it'll likely be because of football. If they stay, it'll be because they view this as a temporary dip for football as other sports continue to thrive.
2. The Tri-Cities schools:
For the four Tri-Ctiies schools discussing the idea of leaving the Upstate Eight Conference for this new league, the decision comes down to a choice.
Do Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North want to leave the UEC for the opportunity to fill all their levels of competition in all their sports, or do they want to stay and improve their chances of getting three football wins each season against Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood?
This year the four Tri-Cities football teams have posted an 8-1 record against Elgin, Larkin and Streamwood, the lone loss being a 27-24 Larkin victory over Geneva. In the eight other games the average margin of victory has been 43 points.
If those four schools (with enrollments between 1,938 and 2,490) decide to join this new league, the football schedule obviously becomes tougher with the Wheatons in the mix.
On the other hand, the four Tri-Cities schools would have no trouble fielding its levels in this new league. Filling schedules has been a problem in the UEC, and that issue would disappear.
3. The two unnamed schools:
Biscan's statement last week included the mention of an invitation to two additional schools to further explore the possibility of forming a new conference.
Who are the two unnamed schools? No one is saying, but speculating isn't difficult.
The primary candidates are also in the DVC: Glenbard North and Lake Park.
Glenbard North, with an enrollment of 2,218, discussed in 2014 the possibility of leaving the DVC for the UEC but at the time decided to commit to the DVC for two school years and re-evaluate its situation at a later date. That time may be now.
From Lake Park's point of view, this version of the DVC is nothing close to the league the Lancers signed up to join in 2013 as they filled the vacancy left by West Chicago's departure to the UEC.
At the time Lake Park was joining a DVC with Glenbard East and West Aurora. When the Rams and Blackhawks also decided to leave for the UEC, that left the DVC at six schools until the league expanded to nine with the addition of the three Valley schools.
No one from Glenbard North or Lake Park has confirmed Biscan's invitation, but it'd make sense.
4. The DVC:
How would the remaining members of the DVC rebuild its roster of schools?
The options were limited before the addition of Metea, Neuqua and Waubonsie, and they may be even more limited now.
If Glenbard North and Lake Park join a new league with the Wheatons, the five remaining schools would need to fill at least one spot and ideally three spots.
The West Suburban Conference boasts enviable targets in Glenbard West, Downers Grove North and South, and Hinsdale Central and South, but the DVC needs to look elsewhere. After 30 years of stability in the WSC, none of those schools would leave for the DVC.
Instead of looking there, look south and west. The DVC needs to bank on Bolingbrook (and perhaps others) from the 13-team Southwest Suburban Conference, and Oswego and Oswego East in the 10-team Southwest Prairie.
Don't know if they'd be interested in joining the DVC, but I guarantee folks are checking.
5. Stat time:
Through seven games, five DuPage County teams have clinched playoff spots.
Congrats to Benet and Naperville North on notching their sixth victories on Friday to seal a berth and join Hinsdale Central, IC Catholic Prep and Neuqua Valley on the list of qualifiers.
Five-win teams Glenbard North, Glenbard South, Glenbard West and Willowbrook can join the field with a win this weekend.
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