There were three football games in Week 7 that were matchups of two teams ranked in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Big Central Top Ten.
Only one panned out to be a competitive game – Cranford beating Woodbridge by ten – while Hillsborough and Union steamrolled their way to shutouts.
For the Raiders, it propelled them to No.1 in the South Jersey Group 5 playoff standings.
Now 7-0, Hillsborough was boosted by beating a strong opponent, North Brunswick, and jumped from fourth last week to the top spot this week. That’s a good example of strength of schedule, and how it can play in a team’s favor. Previous No. 1 Manalapan won, as did Washington Township (which was second, now third) and Cherokee (which was third, now fourth).
However, the race is tighter at the top than before. Following Week Seven, Manalapan led Washington Township by a full UPR point, and Cherokee by 1.2 UPR points. This week, Hillsborough is just 0.2 UPR points ahead of second-place Manalapan, and 0.6 ahead of Washington Township.
Remember, the top seed versus the two seed means little in the state playoffs, at least for now. The top two teams get the number one seeds in separate sections of eight once they break off and snake the brackets, meaning they get guaranteed home field advantage through all three rounds of the sectionals. The regional championships will be at a neutral site. (That could change next year, though, when football plays to a group champion for the first time ever.)
Of course, the Raiders need to keep on winning. The question is not whether, but how much, the Piscataway game next week will hurt them – the Chiefs have an SI value of 48.83, while ‘Boro’s OSI is a 63.65. A win over North Brunswick, which should be around 67 by next week, will help them. And then it comes down to how the teams behind them do. Manalapan has Red Bank Catholic (7-0) this week, after the Shore conference abandoned its pod idea in favor of set matchups. It’s their second multiplier this season, but they can only take one anyway. And, of course, it’s a game the Braves could lose. Washington Twp. has only one game left, against St. Joe’s of Hammonton (6-2). And while Kingsway (3-3) this week won’t drop Cherokee much even if they win, Seneca the next week (OSI likely to be in the 40s) will.
We say if Hillsborough keeps winning, they’ll end up with home field throughout the sectionals.
Further down the list are Old Bridge and North Brunswick in sixth and seventh, respectively. Each dropped just one spot despite the big losses; Old Bridge 44-0 at Hillsborough without injured Owen Haughney, and North Brunswick 42-0 at home to Union. The drops weren’t as bad because both the Raiders and Farmers have high SI values (now 89.78 and 88.99, respectively) and are still worth some power points because they have a lot of wins (Hillsborough 7, Union 6).
The Knights have a road game at JP Stevens which does them no favors this week and a home game against Sayreville on the Cutoff. The Raiders have St. Joseph-Metuchen at home this week and Hillsborough away on Week Nine. Old Bridge likely would clinch a top 8 finish and a guaranteed first round home game if they can win out, and still may if they split (beating JP and losing to the Bombers).
North Brunswick almost has the easier path despite the more difficult games. St. Joseph is a multiplier, so even a loss means they would gain a lot in power points, 28 to be exact, more than any of their other wins so far this season. Beat them (worth 42 points), and they could even end up in the top 4 and get first round through the semis, especially if they win out. Even a loss against Hillsborough might not be the end of the world, given their strong rating, and thanks to the Joe’s multiplier.
After Williamstown at 8 and Southern at 9, things get a little murkier.
Donovan Catholic was forced to take several forfeits earlier this season after using an ineligible player. The NJSIAA ruled that since they’re a multiplier, it wouldn’t be fair for public schools who lost to them to get multiplier points for a win, so they awarded multiplier points for a loss.
In an October 8th post, Gridiron New Jersey wrote: “the NJSIAA has determined that Toms River North and Colts Neck will NOT receive the 42 points for defeating Donovan Catholic, but rather the 28 for a loss.” However, according to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s calculations, Gridiron continues to have 42 points in the power points calculation for Toms River North.
This has affected the standings, as CJSR puts Eastern in 10th, followed by East Brunswick 11th, Toms River North 12th, and Egg Harbor and Edison tied for 13th, with the edge to Egg Harbor due to a stronger OSI. Gridiron has TR North 10th, followed by Eastern, East Brunswick, Edison and Egg Harbor. Gridiron has East Brunswick one spot lower than it should be and Edison one spot higher than it should be.
An email to Gridiron New Jersey sent late Monday afternoon was not returned, and the standings were not corrected as of early Tuesday evening. We’ll keep you posted.
Nonetheless, neither team should have a crack at a home game here, but while East Brunswick (6-1) should be in, and can solidify the math with a home win over South Brunswick Friday night, the Eagles can’t afford a trip-up against Hunterdon Central or Watchung Hills, a pair of one-win teams.
What will be intriguing is whether New Brunswick (3-4) or South Brunswick (4-3) can make a push. The Zebras are 18th and have two decent games left: Sayreville and Monroe. South Brunswick is in 20th and has East Brunswick – the Bears’ 6-1 record means a lot of power points – and Bridgewater-Raritan in Week Nine, also a good game.
The good news for them is the teams ahead of them – all the way up to 16th – are not winning teams. Vineland is in 19th and just 1-6. Lenape at 16th is 2-5. The only .500 team ahead of them is Atlantic City (17th, 3-3).
We’ll paraphrase Lloyd Christmas here: “So you’re saying they have a shot!”