Metro Suburban Conference continues to evolve

The Metro Suburban Conference gathers no moss.

In 2006 it formed as a four-team league. It added a fifth team in 2011. In 2014 the MSC accepted seven teams from the Suburban Christian Conference and split into West and East divisions.

Now, ditching geography in favor of enrollment groupings, the divisions are renamed Blue and Red, and St. Edward and Aurora Central Catholic have switched divisions.

"I think it's becoming a very competitive conference. And I think it's come a long ways from the old Metro Suburban days when we used to play everyone twice," said Fenton coach Mark Kos. His "Original Four" Bison join St. Edward, Glenbard South, Wheaton Academy, Riverside-Brookfield and defending MSC West champion IC Catholic Prep in the stronger MSC Blue.

"It's interesting having St. Edward on our side of the conference this year," said Wheaton Academy coach Brad Thornton. "I respect coach (Mike) Rolando, their program, what they do in their school with what they have. They play hard and they're a team always well-prepared to play."

For football the MSC Red now offers Aurora Central Catholic, Walther Christian, Elmwood Park, Guerin, Chicago Christian and defending MSC East champ Ridgewood.

If the league were a scale it would teeter toward Blue. Adding St. Edward gives the MSC Blue five 2015 playoff teams. Subtract results of Aurora Central and St. Edward and the Blue went 9-1 in crossover games.

IC Catholic returns Northern Illinois-bound running back Jordan Rowell, quarterback Luke Ricobene and tough two-way lineman Jim Kenneally from a squad that in 2015 beat usual suspects Riverside-Brookfield - a Class 6A quarterfinalist - and Glenbard South, the latter in triple-overtime.

"I think with IC winning it last year that's the team to beat," said Thornton, who would like to "crack the top three" with returners like speedy Harrison Taylor and two-way lineman Nori Kasai.

That would mean bumping either IC, Glenbard South or Riverside-Brookfield, a tough task.

Glenbard South's Sean Cooke set program single-season rushing and touchdown records last season. Raiders quarterback Jack Crouch, forced into action as a sophomore due to injury, has reps under his belt and Peter Jeske catching passes.

Riverside-Brookfield has been huge up front. Quarterback Ryan Swift graduated but coach Brendan Curtin returns blue-chippers Jamari Wise and Michael Wilson. The Bulldogs return six on defense.

"They're going to rebuild, every year for the next several years," said Glenbard South coach Ryan Crissey, who plays IC and R-B in Weeks 8-9.

Newcomer St. Edward, which plays its season opener in Orlando, sent ace running back Dwayne Allen to St. Cloud State but returns junior quarterback Dylan Mlarnich and the Green Wave's top four receivers from 2015 including sprinter Saveon Smith.

Should Fenton develop on the lines, Kos likes the skill depth he's got around running back-linebacker Dylan Butts.

"We're looking to make our way up the conference standings and I think we had a very good summer to make that foundation," Kos said.

Aurora Central Catholic has different standings to climb. The Chargers went 3-6 playing in the West in 2015 but beat both Chicago Christian and Guerin in crossover games.

Heightening the motivation factor, this will be the final prep season for ACC quarterback Johnny Belskis to work with his father, Chargers coach John Belskis. The former Downers Grove South coach also returns two-way starter Griffin Zajac and offensive lineman Jairo Varela, among others.

Team Belskis - the coach even added coaches to improve instruction - will attempt to depose Ridgewood from the top slot. The Rebels went 7-3 overall and 5-0 in the Metro East, then changed coaches.

"We know nothing's handed to us, so we're working hard to try to repeat," said Ridgewood coach Donald Gelsomino, formerly St. Patrick's defensive coordinator. He returns four-year running back Alex Rice and added Guerin transfer quarterback Richie Zacharias.

The Metro Suburban Conference usually is working on something. "It's interesting to see how the conference has changed over the last several years," Glenbard South's Crissey said.

  Mikey Alfano of Wheaton Academy football leaps for a pass during practice Tuesday in West Chicago. Paul Michna/
  Tyler Santagata - WR/DL - Senior Paul Michna/
  IC Catholic Prep's Jordan Rowell, fights for second half yardage against Wheaton Academy. Daniel White/
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