by Mike Pavlichko
There were supposed to be some highly intriguing matchups in 2020.
That was the promise of the Big Central Football Conference, the long awaited merger that follows the trend around the rest of the Garden State: large superconferences swallowing up smaller ones and encompassing large swaths of New Jersey.
The Big Central gives us 60 teams that used to be in the Greater Middlesex and Mid State Conferences.
The names had a nice ring to them. The GMC will survive in all sports besides football. The Mid-State also was a football-only league, as Hunterdon, Warren and Union Counties make up the Skyland Conference in other sports.
In any event, at my prior media outlet, I picked seven intriguing games for the first year of the BCFC. And guess what? Only one of them is still happening. How disappointing!
The only game remaining on the revised Big Central schedule – which was pared down after the NJSIAA reduced the nine-game regular season and growing playoffs to six weeks of regular season games (including a seventh for those rare few who still play on Thanksgiving) and two weeks of post-season, though it’s still not clear what form that will take – is Union at St. Joe’s of Metuchen.
The Farmers and Falcons are among the top teams in the area, with Union coming off a state championship in 2019. They were one of the Mid-State’s best public schools last year, and Joe’s is the best parochial (of only three, including Immaculata and St. Thomas Aquinas) in the new Big Central.
But six other games have been wiped from the schedule.
Phillipsburg at Piscataway was a double-whammy: that was dropped by the league in an effort to reduce travel, and the Chiefs have dropped football altogether for the fall. These two have met in some epic playoff battles over the years, including a legendary OT win for P’way in 2004 in the state finals.
I was looking forward to Carteret-Somerville for my sentimental reasons. It would have been their first regular season meeting since 2004. The only other time they’d played each other was in 2000, the week before I covered Somerville-Manasquan for a state title at Brooks Field with Bob Molarz, the Carteret coach, serving as my guest analyst.
St. Joseph at Piscataway would have been a great one, too. The Chiefs had a bit of a down year last year but their 2019 meeting – their first ever – came down to the wire.
Somerville-Phillipsburg out on the state line would have been a nice one, too. They’re both tradition-rich programs, but they haven’t played each other since 1969. The last time the Pioneers beat the ‘Liners, the Mets had just finished losing 120 games in their flagship season.
I also would have liked to see Bound Brook visit South River on October 10th. But the geographical retooling of divisions to limit bus travel squashed that. (Although I’m not quite so sure how Bound Brook-Belvidere is any better, and the Crusaders do play Spotswood, which has to drive right past South River to get to LaMonte Field.)
Somerville-St. Joe’s. Need I say more?
Warriors-Chiefs off, then on, then off again…
The Piscataway-Franklin game had become extra lopsided in recent years. The Chiefs had won 13 straight, and by an average of 20 points per game, before both programs mutually agreed to end their series. Too bad.
But wait, as part of an effort to limit travel, these two wound up on the schedule together again.
Hold on, not so fast. Piscataway earlier this month decided to suspend all fall sports due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, citing safety concerns.
New Egypt changed its mind recently. Will Piscataway?
Simple Simon Says this Schedule is Simple
It took a worldwide pandemic to do it, but the NJSIAA has finally bid farewell to Week Zero!
That was confusing, especially last year when there was a Week 00 before Week 0, which had some teams having already played two games heading into Week One.
This year, it’s just six weeks of regular season, two weeks of postseason, and Thanksgiving for those so inclined.
Pay attention, there’s a quiz later.
Who’s going to play us?
There are 12 area teams who now have holes to fill in their schedule after Piscataway and Carteret dropped fall sports this year.
Those who need a replacement for the Chiefs are New Brunswick, Franklin, North Brunswick, Sayreville, Edison and Old Bridge.
Carteret left gaping holes for Governor Livingston, Roselle, Johnson, Hillside, Bernards and South River.
If Piscataway’s opponents used their open days to play the teams on Carteret’s schedule, well, it would be interesting:
Week one would have New Brunswick facing Governor Livingston, Franklin taking on Roselle, Johnson playing North Brunswick, Sayreville facing Hillside, Edison taking on Bernards and Old Bridge playing South River.
There are a few obvious mismatches, some of which have more to do with size (see: Old Bridge-South River), but to be honest with you, I’d like to see Sayreville-Hillside. The Bombers are just a year removed from a state championship and Hillside – a state champ last year – finished 2019 at No. 3 in the NJ.com Top 20.
Edison-Bernards would be a neat matchup, too. Though Edison has the group size advantage, Bernards is always a tough out. Even though I don’t have to, I’d pay to see that one.