By TOM WILLIAMS
With two weekends left before the deadline in New Jersey high school football – according to the current ratings – there are now 12 teams at Cape-Atlantic League schools (plus a 13th from the neighborhood – Hammonton) who are in the NJSIAA playoff picture.
The two new teams are Absegami (2-4) and Atlantic City (2-5) who both moved into the top 16 in their respective groups with wins over the weekend.
Absegami defeated Moorestown and jumped up to No. 15 in South-Central Group 3. If the playoffs started this week, the Braves would be at Woodrow Wilson (5-1). Oakcrest (2-5) is No. 20 in Group 3 but could move up into the top 16 if it beats Ocean City on Saturday. Wall Township (7-0) is still the No. 1 seed in Group 3.
In Group 5, Atlantic City defeated Deptford on Friday and would be at North Brunswick (6-1) in the first round if the playoffs started this week. But the Vikings might have to defeat Millville on Friday to stay in the playoff picture. Vineland (3-4) moved up to No. 9 and would travel to Southern Regional (6-1). Toms River North (6-1) remains No. 1 in Group 5.
In Group 4, Ocean City (5-1) jumped up to No. 9 and would be at Middletown South (2-4) in the first round. If the Raiders beat Oakcrest on Saturday they could advance into the top eight, earning a home game in the first round. They almost certainly would get a home game if they beat both Oakcrest and Mainland (7-0) before the deadline. Ocean City’s last home playoff game was in 2008.
In other Group 4 first round pairings (if things began this week) Clearview (5-2) would be at Millville (3-4), Brick Township (3-3) at Mainland and Long Branch (2-5) at Hammonton (5-2). Two-time defending champion Shawnee (6-1) remains the No. 1 seed in Group 4.
In Group 2, Point Pleasant Boro (3-3) would play at No. 2 Cedar Creek (5-2) and Delaware Valley (4-2) would visit No. 5 Pleasantville (5-1). West Deptford (5-1) hangs on to No. 1 in Group 2 despite its loss on Friday.
In Group 1, Buena (5-1) hangs on to No. 6 and would host Glassboro (3-3) in the first round. Penns Grove (7-0) is No. 1.
Among the Non-Public schools, St. Augustine Prep (4-3) has advanced to No. 5 and would get a first round bye. The Prep would then travel to Bergen Catholic (4-2) in a Non-Public 4 quarterfinal. St. Peter’s Prep (7-0) is No. 1 in Non-Public 4.
In Non-Public 2, No. 1 St. Joseph (6-1) would get a bye and host the winner between Gloucester Catholic (0-6) and St. Mary (2-5). Holy Spirit (3-3) dropped a notch to No. 3 and would also get a bye. Spirit host then host the winner between Hudson Catholic (1-6) and Marist (1-5).
Though all games are important to the playoff candidates because of the mathematical system that determines seedings and qualifiers, some of the key games this week include Cherokee at St. Augustine, Kingsway at Holy Spirit, Ocean City at Oakcrest, Timber Creek at St. Joseph, Pleasantville at Buena, Collingswood at Haddonfield, Hammonton at Eastern, Millville at Atlantic City, Woodrow Wilson at Willingboro, Delsea at Cedar Creek, Vineland at Washington Township, Williamstown at Shawnee and Toms River East at Toms River North.
The deadline to qualify is Nov. 2 and first round playoff games will be played the weekend of Nov. 8-9. Teams that do not qualify for the playoffs will be assigned one consolation game with the option of scheduling another themselves. Schools that do not wish to participate must notify the NJSIAA by Friday.
It is coming down to the wire.