By TOM WILLIAMS
There is just one weekend before the playoff deadline in New Jersey high school football and, according to the current ratings, there are still 12 teams at Cape-Atlantic League schools (plus a 13th in Hammonton from Atlantic County) who are in the NJSIAA playoff picture.
In Group 5, Atlantic City (2-6) stayed in the top 16 despite losing to Millville last Friday. If the playoffs started this week, the Vikings would be at No. 1 Williamstown (8-0) in the first round. But Leo Hamlett’s team might have to defeat Timber Creek (4-3) on Friday to stay in the playoff picture. Vineland (4-4) actually dropped to No. 11 and would travel to Old Bridge (7-0). Egg Harbor Township (3-4) at No. 23 is a real longshot to qualify.
In Group 4, Ocean City (6-1) dropped two notches to No. 11 despite beating Oakcrest and would be at Clearview (6-2) in the first round. In other Group 4 first round pairings (if things began this week) Toms River East (7-1) would host Millville (4-4), Long Branch (2-5) would be at Mainland (7-0) and Hamilton (6-1) would be at Hammonton (6-2). Two-time defending champion Shawnee (6-2) remains the No. 1 seed in Group 4.
In Group 3, Absegami (2-4) remained No. 15 despite a bye week. If the playoffs started this week, Dennis Scudari’s team would be at Woodrow Wilson (5-2). Oakcrest (2-6) moved up a notch to No. 19 in Group 3 but would need a whole lot of things to break its way to qualify. Wall Township (8-0) is still the No. 1 seed in Group 3.
In Group 2, Haddon Heights (3-4) would play at No. 2 Cedar Creek (6-2) and Shore Regional (3-5) would visit Pleasantville (6-1), which moved up two places. No. 22 Middle Township (4-3) might have a chance to qualify if it beats Pleasantville Friday. No. 28 Lower Cape May (2-5) is probably too far down the list. West Deptford (6-1) hangs on to No. 1 in Group 2.
In Group 1, Buena (5-2) is still No. 6 despite its loss to Pleasantville and would host Glassboro (3-4) in the first round. Penns Grove (8-0) is No. 1.
Now, here is the unusual thing about this year’s playoffs. Instead of dividing teams geographically into South Jersey and Central Jersey and qualifying the top eight in each, the new rules pick the top 16 public schools in each group between South and Central combined. Then they divide them.
For example, if the games were this week, Vineland would be playing for a Central Jersey championship and Atlantic City in South in Group 5. Hammonton, Millville and Ocean City would be in Central Jersey and Mainland in Southin Group 4. And, in Group 2, Cedar Creek and Pleasantville would play in the Central Jersey bracket.
It is called a “snaking procedure” and the idea is to make things more competitive. We’ll have to see.
Among the Non-Public schools, St. Augustine Prep (5-3) remains No. 5 in Non-Public 4. The seedings for that bracket – plus Non-Public 3 – will be determined by a seeding committee. St. Peter’s Prep (8-0) has the highest rating in Non-Public 4.
In Non-Public 2, No. 1 St. Joseph (7-1) would get a bye and host the winner between Gloucester Catholic (1-6) and St. Mary (3-5). Holy Spirit (4-3) moved back up a notch to No. 2 and would also get a bye. Spirit would then host the winner between Holy Cross (3-5) and Morristown-Beard (5-3).
Though all games could be important at the deadline, because of the mathematical system that determines seedings and qualifiers, some of the key games this week include Ocean City at Mainland, Pleasantville at Middle Township, Williamstown at St. Augustine, Absegami at Egg Harbor Township, Timber Creek at Atlantic City, Lenape at Cherokee, Holy Spirit at St. Joseph, Camden at Willingboro, and Washington Township at Hammonton.
The deadline includes games played through Saturday 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 tomorrow.
There is just one weekend left.