Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: South Group 5

Hillsborough’s Shayne Powell scores a touchdown in the second quarter of a 14-13 win over Phillipsburg in the Rumble on the Raritan at SHI Stadium in Piscataway on September 24, 2023. (Photo: Marcus Borden)

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 to 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. Hillsborough (7-1, 2.8 UPR): We think it’s simple for the Raiders. A win over Westfield (4-6) Friday night at home would sew up second-place overall – if Toms River North loses at Red Bank Catholic (6-1) on Friday – and the top-seed in Central Jersey Group 5. (The South’s top seed would go to overall No. 1 Cherokee.) A loss, and Toms River North moves up to second regardless since RBC is a multiplier, leaving ‘Boro looking at anywhere from a three to a five seed, depending on how Washington Twp. and Marlboro do this weekend. Wins from them would push the Raiders further down; losses by both would keep Hillsborough third, we believe.

7. North Brunswick (7-0, 6.6 UPR): These Raiders’ have a huge game Friday night at home against Cranford (4-3), one of the bigger playoff implication games this weekend. Their ceiling appears to be right where they are now, at No. 7, but we don’t think everything is going to break that way. Assuming North Brunswick beats the Cougars, giving wins to everybody else from one through nine – which seems realistic except Rancocas Valley (6-2) vs. Highland Regional (4-3) could be a toss-up – and we think puts the Raiders in sixth, which would make them the three seed in Central 5, putting them on a collision course with Toms River North potentially – on the road – in the sectional semifinals. Put a North Brunswick loss in that scenario, and we think they end up seventh, the four-seed in Central 5, with a potential all-Raider semifinal in Hillsborough in the second week of the playoffs. How could you not root for matchups with the same school nickname?

8. South Brunswick (5-3, 9.2 UPR): The middle of three Big Central Conference teams lined up from seven through nine, the Vikings visit Somerville (4-4) Friday night in another critical game that could go either way. Looks like seven might be the ceiling for South Brunswick if they come home winners from Brooks Field and things break the right way for them with teams around them losing. North Brunswick’s matchup with Cranford being a toss-up, plus Rancocas Valley, makes it all the more complicated to predict where the Vikes’ will actually finish. A loss, and South Brunswick could drop to ninth, losing a first round home game in the process.

9. Hunterdon Central (5-3, 10.6 UPR): With a home win over Perth Amboy (2-6) likely, the Red Devils probably can’t get any higher than the eight seed, but jumping up to a first round home game isn’t impossible if things break the right way, including the North Brunswick-Cranford and Rancocas Valley-Highland Regional tossups (they need losses by the the Raiders and RV). But unlike the two teams above them, who play more solid opponents, a defeat to the Panthers could drop them to 11th or lower, so this is a big win for Central if they can secure it Friday night.

OUT: We tried everything in the book, giving the Knights a win over visiting Bridgewater-Raritan (2-6) Friday night, and losses to the four teams above them in both OSI and power point average – Cherry Hill East, Howell, Eastern, Williamstown, Vineland, and Southern – and could only get them as high as 17. That’s where they finished last year with a big win on Cutoff Weekend, but they got in based on an NJSIAA head-to-head tiebreaker rule with South Brunswick, which they had beaten in the regular season. This year, it’s Howell at 16, and they haven’t played, so that loophole is out, and – we believe – so are the Knights.

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