In many other seasons, current Suburban Christian Conference Blue football unbeatens Aurora Christian and Marian Central would face off on the field en route to deciding the conference crown.
Because the league adopted an unbalanced schedule for 2012, the only place the Eagles and Hurricanes could possibly meet is atop the standings in a head-scratching tie.
While Aurora Christian will have its hands full at perennial power Montini this week, the prospect of a potential winner-take-all showdown with Marian to close the regular season won’t be. The Eagles host hapless Guerin in Week 9, while the Hurricanes get fellow SCC crossover foe Wheaton Academy, a streaking team in its own right, but not the Eagles.
Aurora Christian coach Don Beebe politely deflected questioning about the scheduling quirk, saying even his brother, Dan, the school’s athletic director, was perplexed.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, you’re asking the wrong guy,” Don Beebe said. “These conferences switched formats three years in a row and I can’t keep up with them.”
Aurora Christian has alternated between the SCC’s Gold and Blue divisions since the league debuted in 2009. The initial plan called for redrafting after every two seasons based on a rankings system weighing enrollments with won-loss records in that span.
Marian, Montini, Marmion and St. Francis – the league’s four largest schools – have footholds in the Blue, giving the eight smaller schools uphill climbs in the push toward the postseason.
While it was not due for another redrafting until before the 2013 season, the conference shuffled the Blue and Gold in 2012 when it adopted what Chicago Christian athletic director Eric Brauer called an unbalanced “college conference model.” Brauer has been the conference’s de facto statistician for the past few years and was instrumental in designing the structure.
Once the schools were ranked, Aurora Christian stood fifth and St. Edward sixth. In a new wrinkle, however, neither those schools nor the six teams in the Gold would play more than three of the big schools. The Eagles and Hurricanes missed one another – and will again next fall – as a result.
Until this season, none of the other eight SCC teams had defeated Marian, Montini, Marmion or St. Francis, Brauer said. Defending IHSA Class 3A state champion Aurora Christian since has turned the trick twice, beating St. Francis and Marmion by 27 and 24 points, respectively, in weeks 5 and 6.
In these parts and in Woodstock, the Eagles’ run only has created what-ifs about a potential meeting with Marian, though Brauer contends he’s not heard any questioning about the practice until now. For him – and seemingly the rest of his brethren outside the Big Four – getting into the postseason trumps all.
“The idea of playing all four and then having to win your other five games to be playoff-eligible seemed insurmountable to those teams,” Brauer said.
“If [Aurora Christian and Marian] tie for first, they tie for first. They’re both going to the playoffs, and that’s what should matter.”
Even if all is unequal. Conference crossovers also are skewed, as a handful of teams, including Aurora Christian, will play eight instead of seven SCC foes, with only seven counting toward the final standings.
First-year Wheaton Academy coach T.J. Ragan has guided the Warriors to three straight wins after starting the season 0-4. Entering Week 8, Wheaton Academy actually sits second in the SCC Gold, one game behind Aurora Central Catholic.
Both teams have have lost to Immaculate Conception (4-3, 2-3 SCC Gold) by 33 points.
After starting 4-0, the Knights lost to Marian and Montini by a combined score of 86-7. Last week, they traveled to Aurora Christian and fell, 47-20.
Despite their surge, the Eagles still are regarded as little guys in some SCC circles. In a system designed to help them, they quickly have found a hindrance.
For the Hurricanes, it’s something similar.
Can you really race up different mountains and call someone the winner?
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.