August 12, 2022
Analysis | Friday Night Drive


Steve Soucie: The conference races we're watching

Week 3 lookahead: Several conferences have big games this week

Batavia’s John Smith (65) blocks Naperville North's Nicholas Esposito (9) in Naperville Sept. 6.

When the Chicago Catholic and East Suburban Catholic Conferences merged the idea behind placing the 24 member schools in eight different four team divisions the idea was to spread the wealth a little bit.

There would still be the divisions filled with elite programs but the teams on slightly lower competitive planes wouldn't be asked to strap up against the conference behemoths nearly as often. Hence, giving everyone a better chance to possibly claim a coveted playoff berths.

The CCL/ESCC Blue is still a beast with Mt. Carmel, Brother Rice, Marist and Loyola. Those four teams have combined for a 7-1 record out of the gate with the only loss handed to Loyola by an out-of-state team (Cleveland St. Ignatius).

Those four will duke it out with one another, but unlike in past seasons, their exposure to the other divisions will be limited.

That's a sigh of relief to the other divisions, who are largely thriving in the new format. Collectively, league teams are 36-12 through the first two weeks. 15 teams are undefeated and just three teams have gotten out of the gates without a win.

Carmel, St. Patrick and defending Class 5A State Champions Joliet Catholic are that trio of teams, but all three of them have realistic hopes for getting back on track thanks to their remaining schedules not representing quite the gauntlet of dominant teams that it may have in the past.

• If you aren't in a locked conference, a league with 10 teams where no non-conference games are played, the majority of the leagues in the state get into full swing conference battles in Week 3.

One of the more intriguing conference races that begins in earnest in Week 3 is in the DuKane Conference. The league looks to have as many as six viable teams battling for playoff positions and three of those teams have done their part out of the gate as St. Charles East, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South who have all started 2-0.

They might need that cushion as conference favorites Batavia and St. Charles North both were pinned with losses in the nonconference portion of the season.

Math says there's room for all five of those teams to make the playoffs in a combination of ways. But that's only if all things align the way they could, like everything there's variance in there.

• The reformed Southland Conference, a nine-team league where each team has one non-conference date to fill, has already had its share of oddity.

Crete-Monee, a Class 6A finalist last year, is the odds on favorite to win the league, but had to survive a scare from upstart Kankakee last week to emerge as just one of two teams with a 2-0 record out of the box.

The other is Thornwood, one of three defectors from the SouthWest Suburban Conference, who has roared out of the gate, outscoring their opponents by a 106-0 margin.

• Prior to the season, the division of the Southwest Prairie Conference's 12 teams didn't look all that even.

That assumption has been proven valid through the first two weeks of the season. West Division teams have won five of the six crossover games with East Division schools in each of the first two weeks and most of the games have been decided by a substantial margin.

It has been a rude debut for West Aurora, one of two newcomers to the league along with Yorkville, as they've dropped both of its two games and now has a huge mountain to climb against the other five members of its division, who are collectively 10-0.

• Another league that suffers from a little bit of imbalance is the West Suburban Conference, where the Silver Division features a number of solid teams, most notably Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central and Oak Park-River Forest.

Willowbrook is the class of the Gold Division, but the other teams have yet to get much of a foothold in recent seasons.

By the Numbers

Undefeated teams remaining through the first two weeks: 155

Showdown games featuring two undefeated teams: 25

Teams without a victory in the first two weeks: 154

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie

Steve Soucie has been the Sports Editor at the Joliet Herald News since August of 2018. Prior to that, Soucie worked at the Kankakee Daily Journal and for Pro Football Weekly.