Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: North Group 5

Phillipsburg senior two-way lineman Colin Higgins and WR/DB Cameron Bohal at Big Central Media Days on August 16, 2023 at Iron Peak Sports & Events in Hillsborough. (Photo credit: Wm. Hauser Photography/Big Central)

It’s down to the final weekend of the regular season in high school football, and Cutoff Weekend is just days away. This week, Central Jersey Sports Radio will bring you exclusive, team-by-team analysis of all the playoff scenarios for the 57 public schools in the Big Central Conference.

It’s all brought to you by My Family Appliances on Route 1 South in the Wick Plaza, Edison.

And don’t forget to join us for our “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday at 6 pm (moved an hour later), as Mike Pavlichko brings you all the playoff projections, with analysis and commentary by Marcus Borden, live in studio!

With that, here’s a look at the North Group 5 supersection, with all scores and playoff standings based on Gridiron New Jersey’s official calculations as of Sunday, October 15, 2023. Click on the heading to see the standings at Gridiron New Jersey:


2. Phillipsburg (6-1, 2.4 UPR): This is an easy one; the Stateliners should finish either second or third. We think win this Friday at Maloney against East Brunswick (0-8) will clinch second, regardless what anyone else does. And that’s our projection. If they don’t beat the Bears – besides it being an upset of monumental proportions – they would need a loss by Union City (3rd, 6-1, 2.6 UPR) to hold on to second place, and a top-seed in what should be North 2, with Passaic Tech (1st, 8-0, 1 UPR) locked into the top spot thanks in large part to their 21.13 power point average, which is astounding since they are not artificially inflated by a multiplier.

4. Watchung Hills (6-2, 4 UPR): Should Watchung Hills beat Elizabeth (1-7), we think the Warriors end up fourth, assuming that Phillipsburg beats East Brunswick, and that the rest of the top five all win as well. It doesn’t appear they have a shot at a three seed.That would include Union City beating (3-5), Plainfield beating Franklin (2-6), both very likely scenarios. A loss by the Warriors could move them as far down as seventh, but that would assume wins by Ridgewood and Union, who won’t be favored in their matchups with Ramapo (7-0) and Ridge (6-1), respectively. In that case, they still hold on to a four-seed.

5. Plainfield (5-2, 6.2 UPR): The Cardinals are having a fantastic season, and can really close it out strong with a win over Franklin (2-6) on Saturday at Hub Stine Field. We think Plainfield has a range of anywhere from 5-11 in the overall standings, if everything broke the wrong way, but again, that would assume some major upsets. We’re going to say the most likely scenario is the Cards beat Franklin, Watchung Hills wins, Union and Ridgewood loses. In that scenario, we peg Plainfield in fifth with a loss by Montclair (5-3) to Columbia (4-3), and sixth if the Mounties win. Either spot gets them a three-seed, and avoids the top-seed until the sectional finals. The only difference is which section they’ll be in. With snaking of brakcets, a six puts them in with likely top-seed Phillipsburg, a five puts them with Passaic Tech.

6. Union (4-4, 6.6 UPR): We think the Farmers’ most likely range is a 5-7 finish, which could mean a world of difference in the seeding. A win should put them fifth based on what we think everyone else near the top of that section will do. A loss, and they should end up sixth or seventh factoring in our other projections of Saturday’s results. A sixth-place finish puts them in the same bracket as Phillipsburg, but avoiding them until a potential sectional final. Ending up in seventh makes them a four-seed in the other section with Passaic Tech, and could lead to a meeting with them in the semifinals instead.

13. Westfield (3-4, 12.8 UPR): The Blue Devils won’t be favored in their road game at Hillsborough (7-1) Friday night, but a win could vault them all the way into the top eight, not pending any other results. If Morristown, Clifton, Columbia and West Orange all win, that ceiling drops to tenth. A loss by Westfield along with wins by teams below them could knock them as low as 16, but a lot would have to break wrong. We don’t think they could get bounced from the playoffs, so we’ll call them in, and we think likely a 13th or 14th place finish.

16. Bridgewater-Raritan (2-6, 15.6 UPR): The Panthers became “playoff eligible” – the minimum requirement being two wins – last week, with a 23-19 win over Elizabeth. That got them into the top 16 and on the right side of the bubble. Now, they have a chance – win a win at 3-5 Old Bridge, to finish as high as 14th at 3-6 on the season. That’s if Westfield and a bunch of bottom-tier teams in the top 16 also lose, like Eastside (Paterson), Morristown and Hackensack. With a lot of variables here, we’re going to split the difference, and think the Panthers will end up at 15, with an opening round road game at Phillipsburg. That would be intriguing, as the Panthers were close with the ‘Liners into the third quarter less than two weeks ago at Basilone field before P’burg pulled away in the end. But this one would be at Maloney.

Elizabeth (1-7, 20.6 UPR): The Minutemen might actually have a chance here, but they would need some help. A win against 6-2 Watchung Hills Friday would get them close enough that they might be able to get in over Bridgewater-Raritan, if the Panthers lose at Old Bridge Friday night. We don’t think any other losses would necessarily benefit Elizabeth, and since Bridgewater beat them, they own the head-to-head. That means if Elizabeth somehow ends up 16, and the Panthers 17, Bridgewater-Raritan would get in on the head-to-head rule.

OUT: Looking at all different kind of scenarios, we don’t think the Piscataway a chance to crack the top 16 after falling to Sayreville at home last week.

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