NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect today’s cancellation of the Shore Conference pod championships.
The only Big Central team with any virtual certainty of their playoff positioning in the North Group 4 supersection should be the Woodbridge Barrons. With a big game Friday night against undefeated Cranford (CJSR, 7 pm), Woodbridge (6-0) currently sits third in the standings.
With the top two in the section getting home games throughout the sectional finals, the Barrons aren’t that far off. But neither is Middletown South. Both teams have a UPR of 3.2, which is just two-tenths of a point behind second place Ramapo. That means if either gains one position in power point or OSI rank, they’ll likely surpass Ramapo.
At the moment, Northern Highlands is overall number one, with a UPR of 1, which means their power point rank and OSI are both tops. But as for the rest of the pack, Woodbridge is second in power point rank, followed by Ramapo, Irvington and Middletown South. The problem for Woodbridge and the rest is Northern Highlands is so far ahead of everyone in power points, with a 22.3 average. Woodbridge is at 18.0. And the Highlanders don’t even have a multiplier.
In fact, only Rumson-Fair Haven (22.4) and Millville (23.60) have a higher power point average. Millville has only played one team with fewer than four wins, and Rumson has a multiplier, but the Highlanders have played four Group 5 schools, and only one with fewer than four wins. They appear to have the toughest schedule of any public school in the state, and have had the most success against it (6-0).
The point is, it’s going to be nearly impossible for anyone to catch Northern Highlands in power point average, even Woodbridge. So the Barrons will have to make gains on the OSI side.
Right now, they’re fourth (64.96) behind Ramapo (65.31), and Middletown South (69.01). A game here or there could catch Ramapo. As for Middletown South, with the Shore Conference today dropping its two-game pod tournament, and having predetermined Week 8 and 9 matchups, they’ve added undefeated Rumson-Fair Haven (24 power points, 87.89 SI) to the schedule, then Lacey (22, 61.7). while Woodbridge – if it can run the table – would be in better shape.
Sayreville, meanwhile, is on a three-game winning streak and trending hot at the right time of the year. They’re in 10th in the overall standings, but we like their schedule here on out. They have South Brunswick Friday night, then at New Brunswick next week. Let’s see what the next two weeks bring, but that game at Old Bridge on cutoff weekend could be a biggie, and maybe clinch the Bombers a first-round home game.
And yet, what might put them over the top is their multiplier for having St. Joseph-Metuchen on the schedule. Their week five game was a COVID-related cancellation by the Falcons, meaning Sayreville will get power points for a forfeit win, as if they had beaten them. That’s a 42-power point game, and could vault the Bombers into the top eight regardless of what happens against Old Bridge in the Battle of Route 9 on Cutoff Weekend.
Our prediction? Sayreville ends up with a first-round home game.
Right behind Sayreville in 11th place is Ridge, with Colonia in 12th. The Red Devils could gain, with Phillipsburg this weekend, a road game at Westfield next weekend, and Elizabeth at the cutoff. Colnia has JFK, then at North Hunterdon, and home to Scotch Plains-Fanwood. For both, their issue is not having a multiplier.
(That’s a good argument against multipliers – how is it fair for two teams to compete for the same playoff spot when only one has an opportunity to play one? There are only so many multiplier opportunities around after league play – but I digress.)
With Chatham at 13 (UPR 13.4), there are three more Big Central teams bunched together: Scotch Plains-Fanwood (UPR 13.6), Linden (15.4), and North Hunterdon (15.6) in 16th. We can see the Raiders maybe jumping as high as 12 or 11 depending on what others do. Linden and North Hunterdon maybe as high as 13th. Wayne Hills (17th) and Bergenfield (18th), both at 2-4, could challenge, but we like the odds of our Big Central teams to make it, as long as they keep winning.
Linden may have the toughest road of all, with a road game at North Hunterdon this week, followed by Cranford at home and a road game at Woodbridge on the cutoff. Then again, to run the table or win two out of three would likely give the Tigers the boost they need to shore up a postseason berth.