Scouting the Metro Suburban Conference
By David Oberhelman
Metro Suburban Conference
Teams: MSC Blue Division: Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian, Bishop McNamara, IC Catholic, Riverside-Brookfield, St. Francis, Wheaton Academy; MSC Red Division: Chicago Christian, Elmwood Park, Fenton, Guerin, Ridgewood, St. Edward.
Top players: MSC Blue: Jeff Albert, RB-DB, Aurora Central; Caleb Beebe, WR-DB, Aurora Christian; Kevin Cooke, LB, IC Catholic; Payton Gerberding, WR, McNamara; Derek Johanik, OL-DL, Wheaton Academy; Logan Johnson, LB, McNamara; Tyshon King, RB, McNamara; Joe Lang, WR-DB, St. Francis; Ricky Mysliwiec, OL-DL, IC Catholic; Kyrin Perry, RB-LB, Aurora Christian; Kemon Reese, OL-LB, IC Catholic; Dominic Rowe, TE-LB, Riverside-Brookfield; Elliot Royer, TE-LB, Riverside-Brookfield; Khali Saunders, WR-LB, IC Catholic; Dan Skold, OL-DL, St. Francis; Ben Thorson, QB, Wheaton Academy. MSC Red: Kyle Cacioppo, QB, Fenton; Gerald Crawford, RB, Guerin; Kris Diallo, WR-LB, Elmwood Park; Jonathan Griffin, WR-DB, Chicago Christian; Ronan Kenny, RB-LB, Ridgewood; Diamon King, WR, Fenton; Sidney Muhammad, WR-LB, St. Edward; Noah Rodriguez, RB-LB, Ridgewood; Mike Stranski, QB, Elmwood Park; Nick Wright, RB-LB, St. Edward.
Key games: MSC Blue: Aurora Christian at Aurora Central Catholic, Sept. 7; Riverside-Brookfield at McNamara, Sept. 7; McNamara at IC Catholic, Sept. 14; St. Francis at Wheaton Academy, Sept. 14; Aurora Christian at Wheaton Academy, Oct. 19; Riverside-Brookfield at IC Catholic, Oct. 19; MSC Red: Ridgewood at Elmwood Park, Sept. 7; Elmwood Park at St. Edward, Sept. 14; Elmwood Park at Fenton, Sept. 21; Ridgewood at Fenton, Oct. 5; Fenton at St. Edward, Oct. 12.
Outlook: A whole bunch of shakin' went on since last season. Out are Glenbard South and Walther Christian, and in came Aurora Christian, Bishop McNamara and, happily, St. Francis, which stands to fare better than it did in the Chicago Catholic League. That certainly will be determined, since the Metro Suburban Blue promises to be a grind. Leading the cast is IC Catholic, two-time defending Class 3A champion and winner of 16 straight conference games dating to 2014. Headed by Purdue commit Khali Saunders and possibly its best and deepest group of linemen ever, the Knights may be stronger than even the teams that combined to go 27-1 the last two seasons. IC Catholic knew it was on to something when it started beating Riverside-Brookfield and recent nonconference rival McNamara, which went 3-6 last season in the CCL White but whose 44-year coach, Rich Zinanni, returns three all-conference picks. Two-time state champ Aurora Christian was drawing message board kudos as a possible Class 1A title contender. Realignment sent defending MSC Red tri-champion Aurora Central to the Blue and swapped Fenton and St. Edward into the Red. Fenton, featuring three-year starting quarterback Kyle Cacioppo, St. Edward and perhaps Chicago Christian -- with 2017 MSC Red offensive player of the year Jonathan Griffin -- may challenge defending tri-champs Elmwood Park and Ridgewood. Finishing 7-4 overall last season and returning seven defensive starters, Ridgewood seeks its fourth straight conference title, which would be a program record.
Quotable: "It was strong last year, but you replace Glenbard South with a Bishop McNamara, bring in St. Francis and Aurora Christian, and the conference has only gotten better," Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton said of the Metro Suburban Blue. "And you've got a defending state champion at the top."
-- Dave Oberhelman