One of the things that largely was missed during the spring season was the opportunity for teams to go outside of their conferences and play marquee matchups.
Almost everyone stayed in their own leagues for the six-week season. Now that the schedule has returned to the typical nine-week format, those schools not playing in a locked conference – 10-team conferences where foes play the other nine members to fill their schedule – can schedule games from far and wide to fill the nonconference vacancies on their schedule.
Some schools took that opportunity seriously. Here’s a look at some of the top Week 1 matchups:
Mount Carmel at St. Rita (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27): The rivalry between these two storied programs reaches back to 1924, but because of the merger of the Chicago Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic Conference before the 2018 season, there hasn’t been an opening on the two teams’ schedules to keep the rivalry alive. Both schools found themselves available in 2021, however, and it only seemed natural to renew the rivalry with a two-year series starting with a showdown at St. Rita to kick off the 2021 campaign in style.
Warren at Barrington (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27): These are two programs that have designated themselves as the best their conferences have to offer in recent seasons. Warren has lost only one game since 2018 [the Class 8A state title game against Lincoln-Way East]. Barrington emerged from the a wild Mid-Suburban Conference schedule unscathed in the spring. A great measuring stick for both of these programs to kick off the season.
IC Catholic at Montini (7:15 p.m. Aug. 27): Late schedule vacancies led to these two private school powerhouses to a showdown. It also likely features two schools that will see a significant lowering in their postseason classifications because of the fact that neither of the two teams will be multiplied, and IC Catholic no longer is subjected to the success formula [no schools will be in the 2021 and 2022 seasons].
Lake Forest at Wheaton St. Francis (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27): A scheduling quirk didn’t allow Lake Forest to have a conference showdown with Warren in the spring, as the Scouts emerged without a loss in six-game season. Was it a fluke? We likely will find out quickly as they open with a Wheaton St. Francis squad that has established itself as a team to look out for in Class 4A.
Clifton Central at Bismarck-Henning (7 p.m. Aug. 27): The merger between the Vermilion Valley and Sangamon Valley Conferences to fill nonconference dates led to an interesting encounter between two long-time Class 2A powerhouses. The two teams combined for only one loss in the spring season, and although both took substantial hits from graduation, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where these teams aren’t still a factor in 2A.
Other games to watch: Bolingbrook at Minooka; Brother Rice at Hillcrest; St. Charles East at Lemont; Crete-Monee at Lincoln-Way East; Maine South at Stevenson; Morrison at Sterling Newman Central; DeKalb at Sycamore; and East St. Louis vs. Christian Brothers (Mo.).