Fenton, Riverside-Brookfield. Riverside-Brookfield, Fenton.
When it comes to football in the Metro Suburban Conference, it's impossible to separate the two. Last year was the perfect example as the teams split their regular-season meetings and wound up sharing the MSC title.
Entering the league's fifth year, no other team has won the title. That shouldn't change this season.
"I expect what we always see," said first-year Fenton coach Mark Kos. "If we play to our ability, I think we can compete with R-B and everyone else for a conference championship."
Kos replaces Mark Farrell, who stepped down as varsity head coach but will remain within the program. Riverside-Brookfield also hired a new coach after venerable coach Otto Zeman's contract was not renewed.
Jason Rech, a longtime assistant with the Bulldogs, takes the helm from Zeman, the program's coach for nearly three decades who was legendary for his extremely pass-happy offenses. Perhaps the biggest question in the conference surrounds whether Rech will stick with a pass-dominant system, especially with record-breaking quarterback Billy VandeMerkt and receiver Mark McDonagh both graduated.
The transition may open a window for Fenton to claim the title again this season. The Bison return 14 players with significant varsity experience, although many will have to play on both sides of the ball because of a lean roster.
To compete with the Bulldogs, Fenton must rebuild its skill positions. It starts with junior quarterback Joey Butz and a running game by committee to replace graduated tailback Tyrell McGee. The key to the team's success rests with the many two-way linemen led by junior returning starter Freddie Joyner.
Beyond Riverside-Brookfield, the Bison also need to be wary of the other two teams in the MSC - Ridgewood and Elmwood Park. Sweeping both would be a huge step toward winning the title.
And beyond this season, Fenton soon will welcome a familiar face to the MSC. Glenbard South, a one-year independent after the Western Sun Conference folded, joins the league next year.
This season the Raiders patched together an eclectic schedule that includes Peoria Richwoods, Fort Zumwalt South, Mo., three schools from the East Suburban Catholic Conference, Glen Ellyn rival Glenbard West and even Fenton.
Riverside-Brookfield and Fenton may have enjoyed dominance in the MSC up to this point, but that will likely change with the addition of Glenbard South.
"It'll be an interesting year not being in a conference, but we'll focus on every game the same way," said first-year Glenbard South coach Jeremy Cordell. "We're looking forward to joining the conference next year."