The East Suburban Catholic Conference has been one in the Chicago area that has been dominated by four teams in recent years with the Joliet Catholic Hilltoppers, Carmel Corsairs, Marist RedHawks and Nazareth Roadrunners. Nazareth took the conference last season with a 7-1 conference record and 10-2 overall mark after reaching the state quarterfinals. Marist tied Nazareth’s 7-1 mark in the conference and finished 7-3 after losing their first round playoff game. Nazareth will be hampered by having just seven returning starters in 2012 but don’t discount the Roadrunners and coach Tim Racki. Marist will encounter a tougher schedule in 2012 while trying to repeat at the top of the conference. Carmel will have just seven starters returning as well in 2012 after going 7-4 last season including a tough loss at home in the playoffs to Crystal Lake South.
Then there is Joliet Catholic, who played in the highest scoring Illinois state title game in state history during a 70-45 loss to Montini in the Class 5A title game. The Hilltoppers will have senior quarterback Craig Slowik at the controls and always have one of the top teams in the state of Illinois. Notre Dame was outscored by their opponents overall in 2011 but the Lions were able to reach the playoffs before falling in the first round after starting the season 0-3. The bottom of the conference included Marian Catholic, who was 4-5 and just one win away from qualifying for the playoffs. St. Patrick was 3-6 while St. Viator was 2-7 and Benet Academy finished 1-8.
The 2012 season should be one that says a lot of the same in the East Suburban Catholic with the top four teams likely to lead the conference again but some tough games lay on the schedule for the top teams in the conference with Carmel playing Lincoln-Way East and Glenbard North the first two weeks on the season. Nazareth has the advantage of playing four of their first five games at home and Marist plays their first game at Soldier Field in Chicago against St. Rita. Also, two of the conference’s schools will head out of state to play as St. Viator will travel to South Bend, IN and Marist will go to Cincinnati for games. I’m thinking Joliet Catholic will finish the year with the conference title with Marist and Nazareth fighting for second place.