Cutoff Weekend in New Jersey is still six weeks away, but it’s never too early to start looking at the chase for the postseason.
Gridiron New Jersey – the official calculator of all things playoffs – released its Week 3 UPR standings Sunday afternoon, and a quick look finds two Big Central teams – Westfield and Cranford – atop their respective supersections, with a third – Woodbridge – in the top two.
The top two teams in each supersection get a top seed in their section once they’re divided up, and guaranteed home field through the sectional championship game.
Regional Championships then will be played for one more season, until next year, when the NJSIAA will have football play down to overall group champs, a measure the state’s schools overwhelmingly voted in favor of this year.
Here’s a closer look:
Of the 54 Big Central teams that must qualify for the playoffs (the four non-publics in the league all qualify as all non-publics who want in will get in this year) 30 are on the right side of the line, in the top 16 in their supersection.
North Group 5
Westfield leads the pack right now with a 2-0 mark, ahead of Clifton and Passaic Tech. Union is 7th at 2-1, with Phillipsburg 9th, and Bridgewater-Raritan 10th. Elizabeth is 13th.
Winless Watchung Hills, Plainfield, JP Stevens and Piscataway are nowhere near the cutoff. But it’s still early, so a win can give a team a huge boost, especially against better competition.
South Group 5
Hillsborough is the highest Big Central team at No. 5, followed by Old Bridge, North Brunswick and undefeated 3-0 Monroe at seven though nine. East Brunswick at 2-1 is 11th, with New Brunswick at 13, and Edison 14th.
The Raiders play a tough schedule, so I’d anticipate that if they keep winning, they’ll move up and challenge for a top-seed. Thursday’s game at Bridgewater Raritan (CJSR, 7 pm) will be key to that.
North Group 4
Undefeated 4-0 Woodbridge is second in the standings here, right behind 3-0 Northern Highlands. The Barrons had a little to prove after losing Ali Lee, Jr., and Anthony Santino, but they’ve answered the bell so far. The Highlanders, though, have a hefty OSI at 77.69, with Woodbridge at 68.78. With North Hunterdon and Cranford coming up in two of the next three games, those will be critical to keep pace and/or gain ground.
But again, the Barrons at least would have home field through the sectional finals should they finish second in the supersection, so not all is lost.
Ridge’s win over Bridgewater Friday helps put them 5th, followed by Linden at 7, Colonia at 10, Sayreville 13th (thanks to a big win over No. 1 North Brunswick Friday night) and Scotch Plains at 15th. North Hunterdon is knocking on the door in 17th.
North Group 3
Cranford at 2-0 leads the pack here, ahead by just over 5 UPR points of Montville and Nutley, with 2-1 Summit – the team Cranford just beat this weekend – in fourth. A Hilltoppers win, and they might be flip-flopped right now.
Warren Hills checks in 8th, while 1-2 North Plainfield is on the other side of the peephole in 17th.
South Group 3
Somerville always struggles here. Not on the field, or in the playoffs, but to get that top seed. Though they do have one loss (to Northern Highlands, not a bad one) they sit in 5th behind Rumson, Delsea, Cedar Creek (all undefeated) and Woodrow Wilson – which they lost to in the South 3 finals in 2019.
To have a shot at one of the top seeds, the Pioneers likely have to win out, or have the teams above them trip.
South Plainfield checks in at 18.
South Group 2
Raritan, Pt. Pleasant Boro and Camden lead the pack here, with two BCC teams – Delaware Valley and Bernards – in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Hillside checks in 12th, and then two teams who square off Friday night are 14th and 16th: Bound Brook and New Providence. The winner will get a big boost; the loser will have dropped two straight and most likely be on the outside looking in.
South River checks in 18th, and with a week schedule and a 2-1 record, might very well have to win out to qualify.
Remember, undefeated teams qualify no matter what, but the Rams already have a loss. Bottom line: there’s little margin for error with Rich Marchesi’s squad due to their schedule.
North Group 1
Brearley is the only team in the hunt here at 2-0, standing in 10th. Hasbrouck Heights leads the supersection.
South Group 1
Despite a 1-2 record, but thanks to good competition, Middlesex is in 12th in a supersection led by deep south teams like Woodbury, Salem, Audubon, Paulsboro, Gloucester City and Penns Grove.
(Do the Blue Jays really belong in this section?)
You have to go to all the way to No. 7 to get to a remotely “Centrral Jersey” team in Shore Regional from Monmouth County.
Manville checks in at 16, with the Mustangs owners of a 2-0 record.
This year, the NJSIAA pared the non-public sections down to two: A and B. A has the larger schools, and B has the smaller ones. The local teams are split with Pingry (not in the BCC) and St. Joe’s of Metuchen in A; Immaculata (not in the BCC) and St. Thomas Aquinas are in B.
These sections will be seeded by committee, using the UPR as one of several factors. Due to the human element, we won’t be projecting matchups throughout the year, but as of now, Pingry is 13th out of 16 teams in Non-Public A, while the Falcons are last.
In Non-Public B, Immaculata is 4th our of 16, while St. Thomas Aquinas is right behind in 5th
What does it all mean?
Not a lot yet. The best teams will be near the top, those that likely won’t contend are well out of the mix already, with a few exceptions of teams that could make a dent.
But the bottom line is, it’s so early. For OSI, which is an average, three games doesn’t say a lot. Give it another two weeks before hitting the panic button, or going into cruise control. A lot can happen – and will – between now and Cutoff Weekend.