High school football: East Suburban Catholic, Chicago Catholic League announce merger

Marian Central's Bryce Shelton intercepts a pass intended for St. Patrick's Giovanni Capifali on Friday during an East Suburban Catholic Conference game.
Marian Central's Bryce Shelton intercepts a pass intended for St. Patrick's Giovanni Capifali on Friday during an East Suburban Catholic Conference game.

Two of the state’s most powerful football conferences will join forces for the 2019 season.

The East Suburban Catholic Conference and Chicago Catholic League announced a merger, for football only, starting next year. The move revives the short-lived Chicago Metropolitan League, which competed from 1996 to 2002.

The league will have 24 teams, split into six four-team divisions aligned by male enrollment, football participation numbers and success over the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Marian Central coach Mike Maloney said each team will have two nonconference games, two crossover games with teams from a larger division, two crossovers with teams from a smaller division and three division games.

“It’s something that provides a lot of equity,” Maloney said. “It’s a long-standing proud tradition of a group of schools that are very balance and like-minded as far as academics and athletics. The more of those school we can gather in the same organization, the better it will be for all of us.”

ESCC and CCL officials released a statement Thursday morning announcing the merger:

"School leadership felt strongly that combining the football portion of the leagues would lead to increased parity among programs, based on like enrollment, football participation, and team success," the statement said. "With schools playing opponents more similar to themselves, the opportunity to garner success and grow programs is great. Most importantly, the two illustrious leagues share in their Catholic mission, and put faith formation, academics, and the maturation of young men at the forefront."

Marian Central currently plays in the ESCC. It has been challenging for the Hurricanes to make the playoffs in that league, but once there, they advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals each of the last two seasons.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be much different,” Maloney said. “We already, within our conference, are playing a couple powerhouses. I don’t know if it makes it easier or harder to be honest. It gives (the conference) more flexibility to take care of some of the smaller schools in our divisions and conference.”

Marian athletic director Curtis Price said the conferences began discussing a possible merger last year.

“With all the changes around the state, all the switching everyone is doing because of football, the conversations have always been there,” Price said. “The talks really got going in the summer. Both sides had a committee, four from each conference, they met all summer to discuss things and see if this could be a possibility for all the schools involved.”

Along with Marian Central, the ESCC currently has Benet Academy, Carmel, Joliet Catholic, Marian Catholic, Marist, Nazareth, Niles Notre Dame, St. Patrick and St. Viator.

The CCL has Brother Rice, De La Salle, DePaul, Fenwick, Leo, Loyola, Marmion, Mount Carmel, Montini, Providence, St. Laurence, St. Rita, St. Ignatius and Westchester St. Joseph.

Chicago Hope Academy, the CCL’s 15th school, was omitted.

School Record (2015-2017) Enrollment
Benet – 27-10 – 1,318
Brother Rice – 23-12 – 1,388
Carmel – 7-21 – 603
De La Salle – 15-16 – 453
DePaul – 10-19 – 220
Fenwick – 21-13 – 596
Joliet Catholic – 14-16 – 313
Leo – 8-21 – 264
Loyola – 37-3 – 1,005
Marian Catholic – 2-25 – 1,004
Marian Central – 22-13 – 330
Marist – 28-8 – 814
Marmion – 15-16 – 1,064
Montini – 27-8 – 318
Mt. Carmel – 27-12 – 1,236
Nazareth – 30-9 – 380
Niles Notre Dame – 21-9 – 1,540
Providence – 15-16 – 476
St. Ignatius – 23-13 – 1,454
St. Joseph – 12-17 – 168
St. Laurence – 27-11 – 343
St. Patrick – 9-18 – 1,276
St. Rita – 19-16 – 1,150
St. Viator – 12-18 – 424

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