By TOM WILLIAMS
There are nine football teams from Cape-Atlantic League schools currently in the NJSIAA playoff picture. And some of those teams have games this weekend that could be important to their playoff standing.
No game is more important than Buena at Absegami, a game in Galloway Township that features two teams with losing records.
Buena is 3-4 and the Chiefs’ power rating currently has them No. 6 in South Jersey Group 1. This will be Buena’s eighth game and only a team’s eight games count toward its power rating. Buena will probably qualify even if it loses Friday but any chance of a home game in the first round would disappear.
Absegami is in a different position. The Braves (2-4) are currently No. 9 in Group 4, just outside the eight who would qualify. In a strange development, only three of the top eight teams in Group 4 have winning records. After Buena, Absegami will play Mainland. A win in either game should qualify the Braves but a win in both make it almost a certainty.
Another important game this weekend is Gloucester Catholic at Pleasantville. Both teams are 5-1 but Gloucester Catholic is No. 8 in Non-Public 2 and Pleasantville is No. 9 in Group 2. Both teams could qualify without a win Friday but it is an important game for both.
St. Joseph is currently No. 2 in Non-Public 2 and Holy Spirit is No. 3. If the playoffs were this week, St. Joe would host St. Mary (4-3) and Mater Dei (5-0) would come to Ed Byrnes Stadium.
In Group 2, Middle Township is hanging on at No. 7 but will almost definitely need to beat Pleasantville on Nov. 3 to qualify. If the playoffs were this week, Middle would be at Willingboro (5-2) and Cedar Creek, currently No. 3 in the Group 2 rankings, would host Camden (5-1).
In Group 5, Millville and Vineland are pretty sure to qualify but the next two weeks will determine if they will open at home and which of the six strong qualifiers they will face. If it were this week, Millville would host Cherokee (5-1) and Vineland would open at Rancocas Valley (7-0).
In Group 3, Ocean City remained at No. 4 following its win over Mainland. The Raiders would host Delsea (4-3) if the playoffs were this week. Delsea’s record is a bit misleading – the Crusaders have a forfeit loss to Cedar Creek, an overtime loss to Holy Spirit and a three-point loss to Timber Creek (6-0), the No. 5 ranked team in the state.
In Non-Public 4, St. Augustine Prep has pretty much clinched the No. 8 spot and would open at Bergen Catholic (5-2), the No. 1 ranked team in New Jersey. In the bizarre result of a misguided decision by the NJSIAA football committee, Seton Hall Prep (2-5) and Delbarton (1-6) are both ranked ahead of The Prep because they get points like they won even if they lose to certain North Jersey powers.
There are still two weekends of games that will influence these rankings. The deadline is Nov. 5. The top eight teams in each group will play in the opening round of the playoffs on Nov. 10-11 based on the NJSIAA power rating system. Only seven of a team’s first eight games will count when compiling the ratings.