From the frying pan to another frying pan.
That's where Chris VanDyke happily finds himself. An 11-year program assistant at Naperville Central in the rugged DuPage Valley Conference, VanDyke makes his varsity head coaching debut at Immaculate Conception in the rugged Suburban Christian Conference.
"It's like going to the same thing, where you have to run through a gauntlet," said VanDyke, 34, a 1995 Naperville Central graduate who also will coordinate the Knights' new spread offense.
"What it boils down to is it's football," he said. "This conference, we have just as tough kids as the bigger schools. They just have more of them."
There are not many bigger than returning offensive linemen, 305-pound Brendan Flaherty and 320-pound Christian Lopez.
Tough? Think 225-pound, all-SCC Gold returner James Peachey at center and linebacker in the 4-3 defense, veering from a 3-5 under former two-year coach Mike Alberts and predecessor Bill Schmidt.
Immaculate Conception, which won the Class 2A title only three seasons ago, has prided itself on toughness. Flaherty, Lopez, Peachey and Aldaberto Suarez may well continue the power tradition, but VanDyke believes his athletes can run around and not just over opponents.
Returnees include receiver Tim Hipskind and back Matt Mesnard, who ran for 511 yards and 8 touchdowns. Dakota Baker is at receiver after starting some at cornerback as a sophomore. Without Baker and a few others, this year's juniors went 8-1 as sophomores.
St. Joseph transfer Demetrius Carr emerged from a lengthy competition to win the quarterback spot, but both players will get regular reps on offense, defense or both.
Depth is an issue, but IC is used to that.
"I'm optimistic about the year, and as long as we stay healthy I think we'll be able to compete with everybody," VanDyke said.
Coach: Chris VanDyke (first year).
2010 record: 7-4, 4-1, second in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division.
Top players: Dakota Baker (WR-DB, 6-2, 180, jr.), Demetrius Carr (QB-DB, 6-2, 190, jr.), Brendan Flaherty (OL, 6-0, 305, sr.), Tim Hipskind (WR, 6-3, 185, jr.), Matt Hornstra (DL, 5-9, 190, sr.), Joe Iavarone (LB, 5-10, 190, jr.), Coleon Leverson (DL, 6-3, 215, sr.), Christian Lopez (OL, 6-0, 320, jr.), Matt Mesnard (RB, 5-7, 195, sr.), James Peachey (OL-LB, 6-1, 225, sr.), Dan Vatch (DB, 5-8, 170, sr.).
Sat, Aug 27 Ridgewood 1 p.m.
Sat, Sep 3 @ Edwardsburg (Mich.) 6:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 9 @Aurora Central 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 16 Walther Lutheran 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 23 @ Marmion 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Sep 30 @ Chicago Christian 7:30 p.m.
Fri, Oct 7 Aurora Christian 7:30 p.m.
Sat, Oct 15 St. Francis 1 p.m.
Sat, Oct 22 Guerin Prep 1 p.m.