North Group 3 Week 9 Breakdown: Cougars are locked in as overall top seed, do Summit and North Plainfield have must-wins?

There’s a lot people don’t know about the playoff formula New Jersey uses for high school football – even though it’s completely available to the general public. But what we do know is that Cranford – with a 7-0 record – appears to be the only Big Central team locked into its playoff position. Here’s a team-by-team unofficial breakdown of Big Central teams in playoff contention in North Group 3:

Cranford: We believe Cranford is locked in as the overall Number One seed. And though top versus second overall seed matters little – since the regional champiosnhips will be at a neutral site at MetLife Stadium – the Cougars can take that bragging right. By our math, even if Cranford should lost at Montgomery (3-4) Friday night in Skillman – and even if River Dell, West Morris, Sparta, and West Essex behind them all win – Cranford should still be the number one seed. Go ahead. Move along. Nothing else to see here. Believe it or not, they could end up with an all-Big Central first round game at Memorial Field next Friday night. Read on…

MORE CUTOFF WEEKEND COVERAGE: A team-by-team breakdown of every Big Central team’s postseason standing and chances heading into Week 9

Summit: The Hilltoppers (5-3) are in 15th place, with a tough opponent this weekend in Somerville (6-2). The Pioneers have won five straight on the field (with a forfeit loss to Phillipsburg sandwiched in the middle) and are really hitting their stride, with Ethan MacNair steamrolling opponents since moving from tight end to runningback; he’s rushed for 544 yards and six touchdowns in just the last two games, against St. Joseph-Metuchen and Warren Hills. But enough about the Pioneers. Should Summit pull off an upset – though they’re a team that always gives the ‘Ville fits, the only team to beat them in the 2019 regular season – they could end up anywhere from 12th to 14th depending on who else wins, like Nutley, Vernon, Warren Hills or Wayne Valley (the more of them that win, the lower Summit finishes). Could the unthinkable happen, and Summit get knocked out of the playoffs with a loss? Somerville is a strong opponent with a solid OSI and worth a good deal of power points, so on its own, the defeat leaves them in 15th place. We believe if Demarest, Morris Hills and North Plainfield all win this weekend, it would knock Summit out. There may be other combinations, too, but those are the three directly behind the Hilltoppers, if they lose to Somerville. Bottom line: Summit has a lot to play for Friday night at Brooks Field, in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland. Game time is 7:00, pregame is at 6:45. Click here to listen.

North Plainfield: The Canucks (5-3) are less cut and dry, currently sitting in 16th place. And a win or loss at South River (5-3) Saturday afternoon, will bring about the same result; they’re going to need help in the form of all three teams currently behind them losing. That’s Morris Hills, Roxbury and Demarest. Should any of them win, regardless of what happens at Denny Stadium Saturday afternoon, the Canucks can bring their axes home.

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