Who made it to the finish line in 2020? Winning teams, mostly

by Mike Pavlichko

I’ve always found statistics interesting. They don’t always tell the complete story, but they can give us some clues as to what’s going on.

(We’re not even going to get started on COVID statistics, because that will ruin everyone’s day.)

But in a year when a lot of people said high school sports couldn’t and shouldn’t be done, perhaps we did even better than we thought.

Listen to “Breakfast with Harry,” the weekly segment with the longtime Courier-News scholastic sports writer.

The high school football season had the feeling over the last few weeks of a team down a touchdown, 90 yards from the end zone, with 20 seconds left and no timeouts.

Or Indiana Jones reaching back for his hat.

Out of the 58 teams in the Big Central Conference, 11 have reached the eight game maximum (although two league teams are going for a ninth with a Thanksgiving Eve game, as is an opponent of another conference school).

East Brunswick, North Brunswick, Sayreville, Cranford, Hillsborough, Bernards, North Plainfield, New Providence, Dunellen, Voorhees and South Hunterdon all have gone the distance, playing eight games.

Assuming their games aren’t cancelled last-minute by COVID, Colonia, Brearley and St. Joseph-Metuchen have games on Wednesday, and that would bring it to 14 out of 58 teams hitting the eight-game mark, or 32-percent of the Big Central.

That’s somewhat of a remarkable number considering that through the first five weeks of play, 39 of the 58 teams had been affected by COVID in one way or another, either having a game cancelled, rescheduled, or having to find another opponent.

By Week 8 – the second week of the “postseason” – a larger number of teams were affected. In fact, of the 25 games scheduled just a little more than two weeks prior to Week 8, only ten managed to be played. There were 15 games scrapped, thought most teams were able to find other opponents.

But what’s interesting about the teams that made it to the finish line – eight full games – is that nine of the 11 have .500 records or better, and five of them have at least six wins.

Cranford is 6-2, while No. 9 Bernards, North Plainfield, New Providence and No. 4 North Brunswick all finished 7-1.

South Hunterdon, East Brunswick, Sayreville and Hillsboro all finished 4-4.

The only teams in that group below .500 were Voorhees (3-5) and Dunellen (1-7).

It’s probably not going out on a limb to say that those teams with winning records benefitted from the consistency of not having a COVID stoppage mid-season.

Four more schools could join that group assuming they play their games Wednesday as scheduled, and they run the gamut.

No. 6 Ridge (5-2) hosts Livingston, Colonia (2-5) hosts Scotch Plains-Fanwood, St. Joseph-Metuchen (3-4) visits Rahway, and Brearley (5-2) should get past winless Metuchen.

And of the top teams in the Big Central – at least according to the human poll – all but one played at least six games. No. 9 Rahway only played five and is 4-1, but plays its sixth game when it hosts St. Joseph.

Top-ranked Somerville finished 7-0, while No. 2 Woodbridge squeaked out six games. Third-ranked Phillipsburg reached seven, while North Brunswick and Cranford each cranked out eight.

Seventh-ranked Old Bridge got in six before getting shelved, Union is done and has six in the books. No. 9 Rahway looks for its sixth Wednesday when it hosts St. Joe’s. co-Number Ten North Plainfield. The other No. 10 – Bernards – plays winless Immaculata in what would be its ninth-game, the most of any Big Central school.

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