By BRIAN CUNNIFF
One of the great sporting events of the entire high school scholastic year is set to begin Friday and four Cape May County teams will be a part of it.
The boys and girls teams from Middle Township and the girls teams from Wildwood Catholic and Ocean City have each earned bids to the Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament, which begins this weekend and continues through Saturday, Feb. 26.
On the girls side, we’ll see an all Cape May County matchup in the opening round as No. 3 Wildwood Catholic hosts No. 6 Middle Township on Friday at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, No. 2 Ocean City will host No. 7 Absegami this weekend as well.
Mainland is the top seed for the girls tournament and will play No. 8 EHT in the opening round. The final quarterfinal game sees No. 4 Atlantic City hosting No. 5 Holy Spirit.
On the boys side, Middle Township is the No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Holy Spirit on Friday at 6 p.m.
The rest of the boys quarterfinal games include No. 1 Egg Harbor Township hosting No. 8 Mainland, No. 2 St. Augustine hosting No. 7 Bridgeton and No. 4 St. Joseph hosting No. 5 Millville.
All four county teams in the event earned automatic bids to the eight-team boys and girls tournaments. Automatic entry goes to the first- and second-place teams in each of the league’s three conferences. Two wild card entries are then selected by the league’s seeding committee for each tournament.
On the girls side, Wildwood Catholic (United) and Ocean City (National) automatically qualified as conference champions, while Middle automatically qualified as a second-place team out of the United Conference. Middle’s boys team was an automatic qualifier by virtue of winning the American Conference.
The boys semifinals are set for Wednesday, Feb. 23, at 5 and 7 p.m. at Millville High School. The girls semifinals will be held Thursday, Feb. 23, at 5 and 7 p.m. at Atlantic City High School.
The championship games are set for Saturday, Feb. 26, at Absegami High School, after the CAL decided to not hold the event at Richard Stockton University due to the institution’s strict restrictions on attendance at campus events due to the health pandemic. In another change, the boys title game will be held first at noon, with the girls title game following at 2 p.m.
The CAL did not hold a playoff tournament last year due to the pandemic. Wildwood Catholic’s boys and Atlantic City’s girls were the 2020 CAL champions.
The CAL playoff tournament was first held in 2012. This season marks the first time since the event’s inception that the Wildwood Catholic boys team will not take part, leaving St. Augustine Prep as the only boys program to qualify in each of the 11 years of the tournament. On the girls side, Middle and Ocean City are the only programs to qualify in each of the 11 years of the tournament.