The playoffs are right around the corner. With just three weeks to go before Cutoff Weekend – when the NJSIAA seeds the state playoffs – teams across the state are jockeying for position, whether its pushing for a top seed, trying to hang on to a first round home game, or just make the field of 16.
As always, Central Jersey Sports Radio has you covered with our analysis of every team’s playoff scenario as we head down the home stretch, and this year, it’s all sponsored by our friends over at My Family Appliances on Route One South in the Wick Plaza in Edison.
And not only will they be presenting our live “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday, October 21 at 5 pm, where we’ll give our projections for all the playoff matchups, but they’ll be giving away three $100 gift cards on the show to lucky listeners.
For now, here’s our team-by-team look at where all the Big Central teams in contention for the playoffs stand as we head into Week Six. For the full standings, click on the header for each supersection to go to the corresponding page on Gridiron New Jersey, which handles all the calculations for the NJSIAA.
15. Brearley (2-3): The Bears – finalists last year in North 1, Group 1, are the only Big Central team in the running in the North Group 1 supersection this year. Park Ridge, Cedar Grove, and Butler all hold the top three spots, followed by Waldwick, so if Brearley does make the playoffs, a long trip up North could be in store. They’re definitely a bubble team at this point, with a pure 15 UPR (meaning they are 15th in both power point and OSI average). Right behind them is Shabazz (3-3, 15.4 UPR) and then North Warren (3-3, 16.4). They may just be battling it out with those three teams, as 18th place Glen Ridge’s UPR drops all the way to a 19.2, which is 4.2 behind Brearley. In Group 1, that’s a lot of ground to make up. The Bears should take care of Highland Park, but those last two games could be interesting: home to Middlesex next week, then at Dunellen’s Columbia Park Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. The Destroyers’ resurgence this year – they’re 4-1, with their most wins since 2019 – will help Brearley’s cause schedule-wise, but they probably need to at least win one of those last two games, maybe both, to get stay on the right side of the postseason bubble.
6. South Hunterdon (5-1): The Eagles are having another nice year, following a seven-win season in 2021 and a six-win campaign a year ago. Sitting in sixth with a 6.6 UPR, there’s a tight group of teams behind them ready to pounce for a top eight finish and first round home game, so Toby Jefferis’ squad may really need to keep winning here down the stretch. They’ve only got two remaining games that count: both are on the road, with Dunellen this week and Dayton next week. Cutoff Weekend is their rivalry game with New Hope-Solebury, which does not count for power points or OSI since it’s an out-of-state game.From seventh to 11th place, Woodbury, Keyport, Shore, Riverside and Middlesex are all within 2.8 UPR points, so a lot can happen here down the stretch.
11. Middlesex (4-1): Speaking of those Blue Jays, they may have a chance at a top seed depending how they finish, and everyone else bunched in the pack does. Middlesex already has a loss to South Hunterdon – so keep that in your back pocket in case they end up next to each other and a head-to-head tiebreaker comes into play – but has a good win over Dunellen. Their schedule is good the rest of the way in terms of presenting an opportunity. That is to say, running the table the last three weeks may give them a shot at a top eight seed. Currently, they’d need to go from a 9.4 UPR to around 8, which is not a tall order in three weeks. The games? Roselle Park this week and Brearley the next – both of whom have two wins – and New Providence at home the following week, which has three.
15. Dunellen (4-1): The Destroyers are having a really nice season. They don’t have the best schedule, but are in the thick of it: on the bubble with three weeks to go, and on the right side of it, too. Friday night will be a huge test against South Hunterdon, but a loss may not hurt them much. With an OSI of 34.48, a loss to the Eagles (69.01 SI at the moment) would be worth about 34.5 points, right at Dunellen’s average. And even their power point average would drop to just an 8.5. Bottom line: a win would be amazing, but a loss might not be the end of the world, depending what the teams behind them, do. There are a couple who are particularly close, including Manville (0.8 UPR points behind) and Pennsville (1 behind). Asbury park and Salem are both a bit more off the pace, but neither has won a game yet. The NJSIAA rule is a team cannot make the playoffs with fewer than two wins, and that might be a stretch for both of those squads. So really, Dunellen likely only has to fend off either Manville or Pennsville, but not both.
16. Manville (2-4): The Mustangs have already reached that two-win qualification marker, but might need more to hold on to the last playoff position. As we described with Dunellen, they may only have to fight off Pennsville behind them. That’s because after Asbury Park and Salem, Maple Shade and Gatewat – tied in 20th place – have 21.6 UPRs, five full points out of 16th place. In Group 1, that’s a lot of ground to make up unless you play – and beat – some very good teams. Manville’s trouble could be that their last three opponents are a combined 2-14, with an SI average of 31.65. Manville’s OSI is 35.78, so even wins could bring their average down. Power points would be helped a little bit; they have a seven average. At Belvidere this week will be worth 10 for a win, at Highland Park next week is 7 at the moment, and Bound Brook at Ned Panfile Stadium on Cutoff Weekend is worth 11 as we speak. Those are three winnable games, and they may need to win all three. You may ask about Pennsville (3-2) behind them, as they will figure into this race with Dunellen. They have Overbrook (3-2) this week, then go to Penns Grove (2-4) and Pitman (1-3) on Cutoff Weekend.