In like Flynn? CJSR projections say 30 Big Central publics will qualify for playoffs, as 5 of 7 “bubble teams” appear to make it, with one more to go

Dunellen’s Chiekezie Ogbuewu scoops and returns a Brearley fumble 60 yards for a score in the second half of a 34-28 win over Brearley at Columbia Park in Dunellen on October 19, 2023. (Photo: Marcus Borden)

Heading into Cutoff Weekend, 25 of the 57 Big Central Conference public schools appeared to have a playoff bid locked up, with six more teams on the bubble. Now, after Friday’s games, it looks like at least five of those seven bubble teams will make the tournament, with one more looking to punch its ticket Saturday afternoon.

That team is in South 2, where Spotswood has done about all it could this season, and has one more thing to do: beat JP Stevens today. Yes, the Hawks are winless and haven’t put a W on the board since 2018, but the Chargers only won this game 18-7 last year. They had to get some breaks to get here. Last week, everyone around them lost, allowing them another lease on playoff life despite a 48-0 loss at home to AL Johnson in the rain last week. We thought they’d be out with a loss, but other results vaulted Johnson up before they even played it, and allowed Spotswood to hang in there. Now, a win clinches a playoff berth at No. 16, with a trip to Point Pleasant Boro likely looming in the first round.

In North 5, Bridgewater-Raritan got a little help Thursday night when Paterson Eastside lost to Passaic Tech, but they might not have needed it. Not after a 49-21 win at Old Bridge Friday night by the Panthers themselves moved them up to No. 14 in the standings. That looks likely to hold and we think B-R will visit Union City in the opening round of the North 2 section.

In North 4, it looks like both bubble teams – Rahway and Colonia – are in. The Indians lost to Colonia, 35-7, Friday night, but Rahway is still ahead of the Patriots in the standings. Regardless of No. 16 Orange’s game result today against Lincoln in Jersey City (4 pm at Caven Point) we think the Patriots are in because Rahway would drop down to 16 and with Colonia at 17, they’d get in based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

That would be the second year in a row one Big Central Conference team has ousted another from the 17th spot in the playoff standings. Last year, Old Bridge got in on Cutoff Weekend thanks to a head-to-head victory over South Brunswick early in the season, which was a wacky one in itself. The Knights had missed a field goal and were trailing late when the Vikings, trying to run out the clock, fumbled. Old Bridge recovered, scored the go-ahead touchdown, then held off South for the win.

In North 3, it appears Governor Livingston will be in regardless of its result at home against Bernards today, mainly because of how strong an opponent the Mountaineers are in terms of power points (they’re 8-0) and OSI (they have a 79.69 Strength Index value). If they hold in 16th, they’ll be in the North 2 section and face top-seed Summit on the road in the opening round.

The only bubble team not to make it in on Cutoff Weekend so far looks to be Brearley, which was eliminated with a loss at Dunellen Thursday night.

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