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Coaches getting ready for new look Big Northern

John Bothe looked at the calendar and then at his wife on Monday and declared the obvious.

Summer is almost over – at least for a high school football coach.

"I said to my wife, it's going to be July 1, I am going to be at school pretty much every day the rest of the way," Bothe said Monday night after finishing watching a tape from the Oregon Hawks' 2013 Week 2 game against Momence.

"We don't see Momence this year, but I always go through the tapes of every game," Bothe said. "I like to go over what they did, and see what we did."

Bothe will be guiding the Hawks into Big Northern West play for the 17th time this fall. Over the years, he's seen several changes to the conference.

There is another one happening for 2014. The Dixon Dukes will be joining the West division, and the Johnsburg Skyhawks will be added to the East division.

Oregon will see both teams. Oregon hasn't played Dixon since 1942. The Hawks last played Johnsburg in 2005.

"Ten years ago, I would never have dreamed about playing Dixon," Bothe said. "I just didn't see it happening. Johnsburg we haven't seen since 2005, and they've had a couple coaching changes since then."

The Big Northern has seen more than just an addition of teams. The conference has also seen a shift in offensive philosophy.

The first five teams on Oregon's schedule all run a version of the spread.

"You go back in time, and every team here just ran the ball," Bothe said. "Then Lutheran started to go to the spread. We added Rock Falls, and they run the spread. Now it's Dixon and Johnsburg. They all run it little differently, too."

Rock Falls joined the conference to start the 2009 season.

While offensively the Rockets have scored plenty the last couple years, they've struggled to stop teams.

Part of that is because the schedule is loaded. Rock Falls played five teams in 2013 that made it to at least the second round of the playoffs.

"It's crazy," Berge said. "You look back, and we knew there were a lot of expectations. It's easy to say we didn't reach them, but then you look at the quality of the teams we lost to, and it's phenomenal."

Much like Dixon, Rock Falls joined with the Big Northern without having much history against any of the teams.

With Dixon joining – and only being 13 miles away – Berge hopes it creates a natural rivalry. Dixon and Rock Falls meet in Week 8 at A.C. Bowers Field in Dixon.

"You hope that it's a game that gets both communities going, and makes it easier for the fans to travel to the games," Berge said. "We haven't had that for a few years. We are looking into playing Sterling again, but it'll be great having a team like Dixon within the conference."

Dixon and Rock Falls have plenty of history, as the teams met every year between 1923 to 2004.

Rock Falls also starts with three road games, including games at Harvard and Marengo, before the relatively short trip to Oregon.

Dixon starts with two home games against Monmouth-Roseville and Burlington Central before going on the road to Rockford Lutheran.

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