NJSIAA selects Franklin and Cherokee as sites for first-ever football Group Semifinals

Franklin High School in Somerset County and Cherokee High School down in Camden County will be the two sites for football’s NJSIAA Public Group Semifinals in 2022, the round leading up to the stat’s first-ever Public Group Finals take place in December.

The NJSIAA updated its website in the last week or so (it doesn’t issue press releases on site selections) to reflect the designation of the two locations, which will host state semifinal games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 18th through the 20th.

Since 2018 – with the exception of the 2020 COVID season where no playoffs were held – the NJSIAA had expanded playoffs, ending with a “regional championship.” It was essentially a state semifinal in each group but without a state final.

But last June, member schools overwhelmingly approved a plan to play to Group Championships, like every other sport, starting this season.

Now, there will be a total of ten public semifinals, with each group having two group semifinal matchups of sectional title winners: North 1 vs. North 2 in one game, and South vs. Central in the other game.

Big Central Conference teams that win a North 1 or 2 sectional title would then go on to play at Franklin, while those that win a South or Central sectional title would go on to play at Cherokee. Based on last year’s results, Hillsborough and Cherokee – which played in the South Group 5 “regional championship” at Rutgers – instead would have played at Cherokee. Cranford, the North 2, Group 5 sectional champion, would have played it’s “regional championship” against West Morris at Franklin instead of at Met Life Stadium at the Meadowlands.

Winners of the semifinals advance to the first-ever public football Group Finals, which will be played the first weekend of December, all at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium.

NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire says the South vs. Central sectional title winners would play at Cherokee, while the North 1 vs. North 2 winners would play at Franklin. Maguire says the NJSIAA is waiting for final local school board approval for use of those facilities.

Franklin has an excellent facility, with a large seating area that has a capacity of about 5,000, according to Athletic Director Ken Margolin, who estimates there’s probably room for another 1,000 “standing room” fans along the railings. Franklin has hosted several major high school track and field events, including last year’s NJSIAA Meet of Champions.

Cherokee is located about 12 miles off I-295, southwest of Camden, in Pine Hill, and also serves students from neighboring Clementon and Berlin Twp.

Both fields have artificial turf.

Click below to hear Franklin Athletic Director Ken Margolin talk to CJSR’s Mike Pavlichko about hosting the state semifinals.

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