by Mike Pavlichko
Nobody knows what things will look like in September.
But if things with the COVID-19 pandemic improve enough that a full high school football season can be played, the Big Central Conference is ready with its league schedule.
The Big Central was formed in 2017, named in 2018, and was set to begin playing its full schedule in 2020. But the global pandemic forced the NJSIAA to shorten the season schedule, and the Big Central shifted some teams around to form divisions that more closely resembled geography than talent level or school size.
Group 1 Bound Brook, for example – which would have been in a division with Brearley, New Providence, Middlesex and Roselle Park – wound up playing Group 2 Delaware Valley and Group 3 Voorhees. They lost to Del Val, but beat the Vikings. It was the Crusaders’ first win over a Group 3 school in the playoff era.
One can’t really call anything with a one-year-old league “traditional,” but for 2020, the Big Central will go back to its “original” divisional formations.
Click below to hear Big Central Conference President Scott Miller talk about the 2021 football schedule:
Returning to the slate are the two schools that had their districts cancel all fall sports in 2020: Piscataway and Carteret. The Chiefs are coming off a 6-4 season and a first round exit at the hands of West Orange in 2019, while the Ramblers are in a more tenuous situation.
Carteret is coming off a 2-8 campaign in 2019, and in a bit of a state of flux.
They’re seeking a new coach following the departure of Matt Yascko after 14 seasons, two state titles, and an 82-67 overall mark (.550 winning percentage). Yascko left to become the offensive coordinator at Edison, his alma mater, so that he could coach his son – a quarterback also named Matt – who just finished his sophomore season.
Once again, Immaculata does not plan to play in the Big Central. Last February, before COVID-19, the Spartans backed out of the league slate, unhappy with the division they were assigned and their opponents, opting instead to play as a member of the North jersey Super Football Conference’s United Blue Division.
They wound up playing three Big Central schools anyhow, losing to New Brunswick and Montgomery in the regular season, and Bernards on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
For now, at least, Highland Park returns to Division 1B. The Owls – historically one of the most storied programs in Middlesex County – did not play a varsity schedule last year due to a lack of players in the program.
In fact, the 2021 schedule is virtually the exact same slate the Big Central adopted for 2020, before COVID restrictions forced it to be scaled back.
In the entire Division 5D, for example, every matchup is the same in 2021 as it would have been in 2020, except for Sayreville getting a Week One crossover home game against Bridgewater-Raritan, and North Brunswick’s picking up a Week Two crossover at Old Bridge. The Bombers and Raiders had byes in those weeks in the original pre-COVID 2020 schedule.
Many schools have open dates, but it remains to be seen whether they will schedule opponents, or keep them as bye weeks.
The Big Central Divisions for 2020 are as follows.
- 5D: Edison, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway, St. Joseph, Sayreville
- 5C: East Brunswick, JP Stevens, Monroe, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, South Brunswick
- 5B: Bridgewater-Raritan, Franklin, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, Phillipsburg, Ridge
- 5A: Elizabeth, Plainfield, Union, Watchung Hills, Westfield
- 4: Colonia, Cranford, JFK, Linden, Montgomery, North Hunterdon, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Woodbridge
- 3: Carteret, Rahway, Somerville, South Plainfield, Summit, Warren Hills
- 2B: A.L. Johnson, Metuchen, Roselle, St. Thomas Aquinas, South River, Spotswood
- 2A: Bernards, Delaware Valley, Governor Livingston, Hillside, North Plainfield, Voorhees
- 1B: Belvidere, Dayton, Dunellen, Highland Park, Manville, South Hunterdon
- 1A: Bound Brook, Brearley, Middlesex, New Providence, Roselle Park
As we’ve all come to learn, much can change – and quickly – in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic. But as it looks in January of 2021, on paper, click below to see the full Big Central master schedule.