NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect today’s cancellation of the Shore Conference pod championships.
A number of Big Central teams have a good chance of making the playoffs in the South 5 supersection, with Hillsborough leading the pack, three teams solidly in, another needing to right the ship to stay in, and two more knocking on the door.
We start with Hillsborough, which is fourth, followed by Old Bridge fifth and North Brunswick sixth. All those teams have a lot to play for and some big opportunities in front of them.
Let’s start at the top, where Manalapan (UPR 2) is followed by Washington Township (UPR 3) and Cherokee (UPR 3.2). The trio from the BCC is not far behind. Hillsborough has a UPR of 3.4, Old Bridge is a 4.6, and North Brunswick has a 5.6 UPR. Remember every one place up in OSI is 0.6 UPR points, and every place up in power points is 0.4 UPR points.
Hillsborough is in striking distance with a gain in either of those categories. Old Bridge is 1.6 behind the second place team (top two spots get byes in their respective sections). And North Brunswick is 2.6 points behind.
So now you need to look at the upcoming schedule: Hillsborough, with a power point average of 16.83 and an OSI of 62.16, has Old Bridge, Piscataway and North Brunswick left on their schedule. The Knights (26, 73.88) and North Brunswick (26, 74.21) are good for power points and OSI. Piscataway will be a drag, however. But if Hillsborough wins out, they should gain. It all depends, of course, on what Manalapan, Washington Township and Cherokee do.
What do Old Bridge and North Brunswick’s schedules look like? Old Bridge has Hillsborough, JP Stevens and Sayreville. Stevens will be a drag, but HIllsborough is worth 29 points and 82.76 in OSI. Sayreville is 19 and 70.41. Not as good a strength as Hillsborough.
North Brunswick has Union, St. Joe’s of Metuchen and Hillsborough, and may have more to gain than anyone – if they continue to win. North Brunswick has a 16.67 power point average and an OSI of 56.53. Union is worth 26 power points and has an SI of 82.19. St. Joe’s has a 68.62 SI, but their power point value as a multiplier is enormous – 42 if North Brunswick beats them. And North Brunswick is worth 26 and 74.21.
This is an intriguing race to watch. As for the teams ahead of them, Cherokee only has one with a winning record (Kingsway), while Washington Twp. has 3-3 Eastern and 5-2 St. Joe’s of Hammonton – a multiplier worth 42 for a win.
Manalapan will play 3-3 Freehold Boro this week, but next week has Red Bank Catholic and Central the week after, following Wednesday’s announcement that the Shore Conference would drop its four-team “pod” idea. But don’t worry, Raider fans, that may not be a multiplier game because the Braves already had one, getting 42 points for beating St. John Vianney in Week 1. Vianney is a “C” multiplier, but RBC is a “B.” The NJSIAA says only one multiplier can be used a year, whichever is worth more.
If they lose to Red Bank Catholic, it’s worth 32, less than the 42 for Vianney, so they’d keep the 42 and get 7 “natural” points for the RBC loss. Should they win, it’s worth 48, more than the 42 for Vianney, and they’d get the natural 17 power points for the win over Vianney. A loss is worth 49 points total, a win is worth 65. That’s a 15 point swing.
The bottom line here is that one of these teams – if they run the table – has a pretty good shot at finishing in the top two, and earning a top-seed, and home field advantage through the sectional finals.
Further down the list, East Brunswick – off to its best start in 17 years – at 5-1 – is a solid bet as a playoff team. It would be their first appearance in seven years. They have Hunterdon Central this week, South Brunswick next week, and a road game at Franklin cutoff weekend: a legit shot to go 3-0.
Edison is 13th at 3-3, having alternated wins and losses all season, but should win their final three games. And they should be fine, since all three of their opponents have SI values higher than their OSI right now: Piscataway, Hunterdon Central and Watchung Hills. Power points could hurt their standing, though, as only Hunterdon Central has a win this season, and just one at that; the teams are a combined 1-16, worth 11, 14 and 11 power points respectively. But win all three, as they should, and they’ll be in.
On the outside looking in right now, but with a legit chance to make it, are New Brunswick at 17th and South Brunswick at 18th. The Zebras have a road game at Perth Amboy, a home game against Sayreville, and a trip to Monroe left. The Vikings have road games at Sayreville and East Brunswick, followed by Bridgewater.
Who’s ahead of them? Southern is 3-2 in 16th with a UPR of 14.6, then there’s Lenape at 2-4 with a 13.8 UPR. New Brunswick has a 15.8 UPR, while South Brunswick is 16.6. Only two UPR point separate 16 through 18. If the Zebras and Vikings can take care of business, they have a good shot.