Tag: Bridgewater-Raritan

Watchung Hills notches first home playoff win since 1978, beats Bridgewater to advance to North 1, Group 5 semis next week

All second-seed Watchung Hills knows about next week is they won’t be getting on a bus to go anywhere.

Oh, and also the Warriors won their first home playoff game since 1978 Friday night. It was a 33-26 come-from-behind victory that tested the nerves of everyone in brown and gold, but as Doc Emrick might say, “They had ’em. All. The. Way.”

The Panthers (3-7) scored first on a nine-yard run by Frankie Verano, and after a Hills field goal by Byron McCann cut it to 7-3, they took a 13-3 lead on a 40-yard touchdown reception by Joe Spirra.

That was the first of four scores in the second quarter – two for each team – that went back and forth, sending the home team into the locker room down two at 19-17. (Bridgewater missed two point after tries, a kick and a two-point conversion.)

The game was decided in the third quarter. Watchung Hills got a two-yard TD run from senior QB Aleks Sitkowski, who also ran in the two-point try, to take a 25-19 lead. Then after a big 51-yard TD pass from Jack Bray to Anthony Confalone, Kelly Brayden caught a 35-yard TD pass from Sitkowski to make the it 33-26 Watchung Hills, with nobody getting on the board in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors had only won one home playoff game in their history. They were the top seed in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs in 1978, which included a four-team field, and won their opening game against fourth-seed Matawan, 14-7, before falling in the finals to third-seed JP Stevens by the same score.

That year was their first and only sectional finals appearance. Now, they’re a win away from getting back.

Watchung Hills (8-2) will play host next Friday night to etiher 6th-seed Columbia or 3rd-seedd Montclair. That game is tomorrow in Montclair at 1 pm.

Click below for postgame reaction from Watchung Hills head coach Rich Seubert:

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

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.

FRIDAY Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: Group 5

It’s Cutoff Weekend, and we’re the place to get all the updated playoff standings all week long, with our coverage brought to you by My Family Appliances on Route 1 South in the Wick Plaza, Edison.

We’ll have more analysis throughout the day Saturday as scores roll in. And don’t forget to join us for our “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday at 6:00 pm as Mike Pavlichko brings you all the playoff projections, with analysis and commentary by Marcus Borden, live in studio!

Here’s an updated look at the Group 5 supersections based on Friday night results as reported to Gridiron New Jersey.


Passaic Tech clinched the top seed with a win over Paterson Eastside Thursday night, while also capping off its first perfect regular season since 1998. Phillipsburg‘s win over East Brunswick didn’t hurt them at all in power points, OSI rank or UPR, still 0.2 ahead of Union City, which also won Friday night.

Watchung Hills and Plainfield remained in fourth and fifth, respectively. The Warriors beat Elizabeth Friday night by a touchdown, but the Cardinals are in action Saturday against Franklin. We’ll see if that hurts them any, even with a win. They’re just 0.4 UPR points ahead of 6th place Montclair (5-3), which plays at Columbia (4-3) Saturday.

A loss by Union and a huge win by Westfield saw both those teams go in opposite directions Friday night. The Blue Devils beat Hillsborough on the road to improve to 4-4, and climbed from 13th to 7th pace. But the Farmers lost to Ridge and dropped from 6th to 8th place, tied with Ridgewood, which lost Friday night. It that tie remains, Union would get the tiebreaker, with a higher OSI at 52.20, compared to 48.36 for the Maroons.

Bridgewater-Raritan‘s win over Old Bridge was a big one, pushing the Panthers to 3-6 on the year, and elevating them from 15th to 14th, tied with Morristown, and if it remains that way, they Panthers get the tiebreaker with a 45.66 OSI, and Morristown with a 43.86 OSI. The Colonials lost Friday night, while Bayonne won to move from 17 to 16, with Eastside moving out to 17.

We’re taking BR off the bubble. They’re in, making it six Big Central teams in this section, with Phillipsburg the top-seed in what we think should be North 2; PCTI will get the top seed and probably be in North 1.

Key Saturday Games to Watch:

  • #5 Plainfield at Franklin
  • #6 Monctlair at #11 Columbia


The loss by Hillsborough to Westfield ended any chance the Raiders had at a top seed, having entered the night in second place. They fall to No. 5, behind No. 1 Cherokee, Toms River North, Washington Twp., and Marlboro. A win by North Brunswick over Cranford puts the Raiders up a spot to 6th place, right behind Hillsborough by one UPR point. Their standing is still up in the air though depending on two Saturday games, 4th place Marlboro hosting Middletown North and 7th place Rancocas Valley hosting Highland Regional.

Hunterdon Central moved up a spot from 9th to 8th with a win over Perth Amboy, while a South Brunswick loss to Somerville dropped the Vikings from 8th to 12th, so it looks like they start on the road. They look locked into the 12-seed at the moment, but everyone else in the BCC will have to wait for those two games tomorrow.

Key Saturday Games to Watch:

  • #4 Marlboro vs. Middletown North
  • #7 Rancocas Valley vs. Highland Regional

Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: North Group 5

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.

Week 7 Friday night Playoff Analysis: Group 5

Note: This article contains an update to the North 5 standings and analysis due to a technical glitch on our part which didn’t include quality or group points for any of the teams. The below reflects the updated standings.

Through the end of the season, Central Jersey Sports Radio will be updating unofficial playoff standings following Friday night’s games. Full analysis after the weekend will come during the week as the official standings are released by Gridiron New Jersey.

Here’s a look at unofficial standings after games of Friday, October 13th in Group 5. Results are calculated using scores on Gridiron New Jersey as of 9:30 am on October 14th:

A quick look shows the Stateliners held steady with their win over Union, though their lead over third-place Union City has shrunk from 0.8 UPR points to 0.2 points. The question is: can they hang on with a win over winless East Brunswick next week, or will it hurt them? And will they get some help from Union City or others behind them? The Soaring Eagles play at 3-5 Clifton next week.

Watchung Hills holds in fourth, their UPR from from 3.4 to 4, while Union drops from fifth to seventh with their loss last night to the Stateliners, and Plainfield holds in sixth with a 6.2 UPR. Bottom line is all those teams should be pretty safe for first round home games if they close with wins next week.

Westfield dropped to 11th place; the Blue Devils host Ridge Saturday afternoon.

As expected, Bridgewater-Raritan went from the wrong side of the playoff bubble to the good side – 17th to 16th – with a huge home win over Elizabeth Friday night. The Minutemen dropped to 20 and should be out; they’ll guarantee that if they lose next week, having only one win, where the NJSIAA minimum is two.

Piscataway dropped to 18th place with its loss to Sayreville at home Friday night. The Chiefs visit New Brunswick next week, and even a win may not help them; the Zebras are winless, and without any other results entered, a win there would drop them from 18th to 21. It doesn’t look good for the Chiefs.

Hillsborough’s win last night, coupled with a Marlboro loss, puts the Raiders up a spot into third, while North Brunswick – which defeated winless East Brunswick Friday night – drops from No. 5 to sixth place. They will try and recoup those points when they play a solid Cranford team at home next Friday night.

Hunterdon Central holds in ninth as the Red Devils snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Franklin, while South Brunswick’s win over Edison gave them a big boost, moving the Vikings from 12th into eighth place.

Old Bridge’s win at New Brunswick didn’t move the needle, as expected, keeping the Knights in 18th place. Franklin and Edison would have a lot of ground to make up. The Warriors are in 21st place, with Edison behind them at No. 22.

Then again, there are three teams in front of them who may not qualify for the playoffs. Williamstown (17th, 0-8) definitely won’t, since they have one game remaining and won’t meet the two-win threshold by the NJSIAA for playoff qualification. That might also be the case for Vineland (19th, 1-5) and Eastern (20th, 1-6), except they both still have two games left: one today, one next week. But even if they don’t, they still play into the UPR formula, so Franklin is 6.2 UPR points out of a playoff spot; Edison is 6.6 points out. That’s a lot of ground to make up. The one caveat here is that Edison plays St. Thomas Aquinas next Friday night and will be guaranteed at least 24 power points if they lose (way more if they win). That would up them from a 7.63 power point average to 9.45, a jump of five spaces (as of today) in power point rank, shedding 2 points off their UPR number.

Bottom line: Old Bridge has a chance, Edison may be a longshot. Vineland and Eastern are the games to watch today. Franklin should be out.

Come-from-behind win for Bridgewater-Raritan over Elizabeth puts Panthers on right side of bubble heading into Cutoff Weekend

It would be easy to “point the finger and give up,” says first-year Bridgewater-Raritan head coach DJ Catalano.

After all, with their third coach in as many years, and a 1-6 record, what did the Panthers have to play for?

The answer is a playoff spot, and his kids believed in it, and here they are: with a 23-19 win over visiting Elizabeth at Basilone Field, BR finds itself on the right side of the playoff bubble, after beginning the night on the outside looking in.

The Panthers led 9-6 at the half, but found themselves down 12-9 after an Imad Canty third quarter touchdown catch.

But Frankie Verano rushed for two fourth quarter touchdowns, to hold off Elizabeth – which scored in between Verano’s end zone jaunts – and win the game, which was salted away when Dylan Tierney picked off Elizabeth QB Arique Fleming with just over a minute left and the Minutemen driving.

Now, at just 2-6, Bridgewater’s playoff hopes look a bit brighter.

For the Minutemen (1-7), they’re not out of it yet, but they’ll need to win next week (to meet the NJSIAA minimum win requirement of two for playoff qualification) and let the chips fall where they may to see if they’ll make the top 16 in the North 5 supersection.

Week 7 Playoff Analysis: Group 5

With just two weeks of play left before the state playoffs are seeded, things are heating up in the playoff chase. Here’s our look at the Big Central Conference teams in playoff contention in Group 5 as we head into Week 7 of high school football around the state.

And, of course, don’t miss our “Playoff Projection Show,” scheduled for 5 pm on Saturday, October 21st, when we’ll reveal our predicted matchups and seeds for the postseason. It’s all presented by My Family Appliances of Edison, which will be giving away three $100 gift cards during the show to lucky listeners!

All our analysis is based on Gridiron New Jersey’s official playoff calculations performed for the NJSIAA and listed on their website as of 9:30 am on October 10. For full standings, click on each supersection’s header below:


2. Phillipsburg (5-1, 2.4 UPR): The Stateliners remain in the second spot this week, but their lead has slimmed a bit over the third place team, which now is Union City, just 0.8 UPR points behind. Watchung Hills is just one point back. A win at Union this weekend would help bolster their cause, but it remains to be seen if a win over East Brunswick at home on Cutoff Weekend would hurt them. The Bears – at the moment – are the second winless team on P’burg’s schedule, which otherwise has three ranked teams – Sayreville, Ridge, Hillsborough – and two others (Hunterdon Central and Union) that had been ranked in the past couple of weeks.

4. Watchung Hills (6-1, 3.4 UPR): The Warriors rebounded off their first loss of the season to Montgomery with a road win against a very good Plainfield team. Things get no easier the next two weeks, with St. Joseph-Metuchen at home, then a road game at Elizabeth – which just stunned Elizabeth for its first win – on Cutoff Weekend. There’s a slim chance that if the Warriors could win out, they could get a top two finish and a top seed, but a lot of scenarios would have to break right. We’ll have a much better idea after this weekend.

5. Union (4-3, 5.8 UPR): The Farmers held steady this week in fifth, despite the loss to previously-winless Elizabeth, but they fell one spot in OSI standing and dropped in their UPR by 0.6 points. If things go right, they could end up with a top four finish, but they would also have to pull off two huge upsets, topping No. 4 Phillipsburg at home then No. 2 Ridge on the road in successive weeks.

6. Plainfield (4-2, 6.2 UPR): The Cardinals are a good example of what playing a strong schedule does. Despite their loss to Watchung Hills last Saturday, they gained 0.4 UPR points and moved from seventh place to sixth in the standings. Two teams (5-2 Montclair and 3-4 Clifton) are right behind them, within one UPR point, so there could be some movement there, but it looks like the Cardinals won’t finish in the top four, which only guarantees them a first-round home game.

10. Westfield (3-3, 11.4 UPR): The Blue Devils had a big win over Somerville Saturday, and climbed up five points in the standings in the process. We called them a bubble team last week, but no more. And with two challenging games remaining, we’re not even sure going 0-2 the rest of the way – with a loss to Ridge at home this week and Hillsborough on the road next week – can keep them from the postseason. We’re calling Westfield in, clinching a berth with their win against the Pioneers.

15. Piscataway (4-3, 15.2): Another example of how your schedule affects your standing, PIscataway dropped in UPR to 15.2 (by 0.2 points) and fell a spot from 14 to 15 this week with a victory over winless East Brunswick. The last two weeks, the news is a mixed bag. The Chiefs host a huge game this weekend with old GMC rival Sayreville (Friday night at 6 on CJSR – click here to listen) that they very well may need to make the playoffs, because their season finale against currently winless New Brunswick isn’t going to help them either. That would make it two winless teams and two two-win teams (Franklin and Monroe) killing their schedule. So it makes this Friday night uber-important.

17. Bridgewater-Raritan (1-6, 16.6 UPR): The Panthers are a win shy of the minimum wins required by the NJSIAA (2) to make the playoffs, but if they get one at this point, it will give them a huge jump against the six losses they have, even if it does come against one-win Elizabeth and/or two-win Old Bridge. They might need to win both, they might need to win just one, depending on what the teams around them do. We’ll have a better idea after next week.


4. Hillsborough (6-1, 3.8 UPR): Thanks to No. 1 Cherokee and No. 2 Toms River North continuing to win – and even Marlboro, which has won its first division title since 1994 – it doesn’t look like the Raiders have a shot at a top four seed. The likely scenario is they finish fourth – giving them a two seed in whatever section they land – assuming they can close out the season with two wins over Somerville and Westfield. And both of them are at home.

5. North Brunswick (6-0, 5.2 UPR): Ah, the schedule. A road trip to winless East Brunswick this weekend may not hurt their cause much, but won’t help them either. The Raiders already dropped a spot from fifth last week to sixth this week, but with a win over the Bears – and another next week at home to Cranford – North Brunswick may be able to keep from dropping further, depending what everyone else does. As long as the Raiders don’t lose to East Brunswick, we’ll assume they start the playoffs at Steve Libro Field.

9. Hunterdon Central (4-3, 10 UPR): Here’s the benefit of a good schedule: despite a third straight loss, the Red Devils didn’t drop this week in the standings, though their UPR did go from a 9.6 to a 10, showing a fall of one ranking spot in power points. They are 0.8 UPR points behind eighth-place Atlantic City (6-1, 9.2 UPR). Can they finish in the top eight and get a first round home game? It might be doubtful, considering they visit Franklin this week and host Perth Amboy the next, a significant drop in their schedule from the likes of Ridge, Phillipsburg and Hillsborough the past three weeks.

12. South Brunswick (4-3, 10.8): If you figured this out and looked at the math, yes, the Vikings are just 0.8 UPR points behind Hunterdon Central, but three places back. IN fact, there are five teams within 1.6 UPR points of each other, from Atlantic City to Hunterdon Central, Kingsway, Freehold Township and South Brunswick. It just means anything can happen in the middle of the pack here, but we still think the Vikes end up in the bottom eight and playing on the road in the first round.

18. Old Bridge (2-5, 19.8): For the Knights, 32. UPR points is a tough hill to climb. They’ve won two of their last three – albeit against East Brunswick and Monroe – and visit New Brunswick this week (0-7) and host Bridgewater-Raritan next week (currently 1-6). We don’t think it’s enough to move the needle, unless the Knights get a lot of help, but it’s tough to tell if it’s possible until the Strength Index numbers lock next week and we know for sure how much each game is ultimately worth.

19. Edison (3-4, 20.2 UPR): Despite being a spot below the Knights, the Eagles have an extra win, and have a better shot at making the postseason a year after winning their first sectional title since 1991. Now, they might have to beat St. Thomas Aquinas to get in, but we’ll see. Assuming they beat South Brunswick this weekend, Edison would be a very good playoff candidate with a victory over the Trojans. A loss – even with the multiplier – might leave them in 17th, and then it depends what teams like Howell, Southern, Williamstown and even Old Bridge might do. Some of that help could come this week, so again, the picture will be clearer after this weekend.

No. 4 Phillipsburg holds off pesky Panthers in second half for 42-19 win at Bridgewater-Raritan

Bridgewater-Raritan has always given Phillipsburg fits.

Two years ago, the Panthers scored a huge 17-7 win at Maloney Stadium en route to a 6-4 campaign.

This year’s BR team came in 1-5, but didn’t lay down at all.

Granted the fourth-ranked Stateliners had a 21-0 lead at halftime, but Bridgewater kept fighting, and scored three second half touchdowns.

The ‘Liners, however, kept punching back en route to a 42-19 road win at Basilone Field.

John Wargo scored a touchdown on the opening drive, then capped the first half scoring with a pick six that made it 21-0 with the PAT.

Colin Woodring caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jack Bray to get the Panthers within two scores after the opening drive of the second half, but P’burg answered with another score from John Wargo late in the third to go up 28-7.

Bray got one back for the Panthers by hitting Frankie Verano for a score, but again, countered. This time it was Felix Matos on a 14-yard run to make it 35-13.

Dane Sorensen than grabbed a huge 44-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 35-19, but the two-point pass failed after a five-yard penalty, and then the Stateliners added one more score to make it 42-19.

Phillipsburg improves to 5-1; Bridgewater-Raritan drops to 1-6.

Click below for postgame reaction presented by the Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Phillipsburg RB/DE John Wargo
Phillipsburg’s John Wargo. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy

Week 6 Playoff Analysis: Group 5

Just three weeks of football remain before the state playoffs are seeded, and teams all across the state are jockeying for position.

Over the next few weeks here at Central Jersey Sports Radio, we’ll break down every Big Central Conference team’s playoff scenario like no one else. And our playoff coverage is sponsored by May Family Appliances, Route One South in the Wick Plaza in Edison.

While the nature of the NJSIAA’s UPR system – which uses Opponent Strength Index for 60 percent of the formula and traditional power points for the other 40 percent – is very fluid from week to week, things will come into much clearer focus on Cutoff Weekend, when Strength Index numbers are locked in.

Until then, it’s not just wins and losses that determine playoff seeding, but how much – or in some cases how little, which often is better – a team wins or loses by. A loss to a strong opponent can help, while a win over a weak one can hurt.

Here’s our team-by-team look at Group 5. Official standings on Gridiron New Jersey can be found by clicking the links below.


2. Phillipsburg (4-1): The top two teams here are Passaic Tech (6-0) and the Stateliners, with PCTI having a UPR of 1, and P’burg a UPR of 2. That means Passaic Tech is ranked first in both power points and OSI, while Phillipsburg is ranked second in both. If the playoffs were seeded today, the Stateliners would be the top seed in the North 2, Group 5 section. The schedule is never easy for them, but they’ve gotten through some very good teams already – like Ridge, Hunterdon Central and Sayreville – and have two more toughies coming up. This week at Bridgewater-Raritan (yes, they’re 1-5, but have traditionally played P’burg tough) and next week at Union (4-2), before a bit of a breather on Cutoff Weekend when they host currently winless East Brunswick. Assuming P’burg keeps winning, could their schedule hurt them down the stretch? Bridgewater may be 1-4, but they have an SI in the 70s, which would very much help P’burg’s current 61.29 OSI.

3. Watchung Hills (5-1): The Warriors are coming off their first loss of the season – to Montgomery at home Saturday night – but are in a good line for a two-seed. Currently, they’d be in Phillipsburg’s section. Their schedule is strong SI-wise. Even a win over 0-fer Elizabeth on the final weekend would help, as their Strength Index is around 60, still a few points higher than Watchung’s OSI. They have some tough ones the next two weeks, at Plainfield this Saturday, then home to St. Joseph-Metuchen. Keep winning, and a two-seed is likely.

5. Union (4-2): The Farmers are having a nice rebound year, and are in line for a third-seed if they can keep winning. They could even move higher – Union City in fourth is just one UPR point ahead of them – due to their challenging schedule: Elizabeth on the road this week, home to Phillipsburg next week, then at Ridge. A sweep would be a mighty feat, and it’s likely Union would be rewarded handsomely for it.

7. Plainfield (4-1): Boy, has James Williams got it going on with the Cardinals, who are looking to surpass their last two 5-5 seasons in a big way here in 2023. How much they can improve their standing, though, remains to be seen. The goal is a top eight finish to get one of the top four seeds in whatever section they land. A win against Watchung Hills at home this Saturday would be enormous, but wins over Monroe and Franklin – both 2-4 – may not move the needle, or worse. The Cards might need a sweep to play a playoff game at Hub Stine Field.

14. Piscataway (3-3): In 2011, the Chiefs started 1-2, and head coach Dan Higgins said from that point on, every game was a playoff game, just to get in. This year’s squad started 0-2, and is in much the same boat. Their biggest obstacle will be Sayreville next week at home, sandwiched between a home game against East Brunswick this Friday night (CJSR, 6 pm) and a road game at New Brunswick Friday night of Cutoff Weekend; the Bears and Zebras are a combined 0-2. For now, we’re calling them a bubble team on the right side of said bubble.

15. Westfield (2-3): Tough loss on a last-second field goal to St. Joseph this past weekend, but the Blue Devils are still in contention for a playoff spot. They’re also a bubble team, and on the right side of it, but they only lead Bayonne by 0.8 UPR points, and Bridgewater by a full UPR point. This could easily go either way for Westfield, too, with three very solid opponents coming up: Somerville (4-2) and Ridge (4-1) at home this week and next, followed by a road game at Hillsborough (5-1) on Cutoff Weekend. They might be able to get in with just one win against that slate; two seems like they’d sew it up.

17. Bridgewater-Raritan (1-5): Yes, even four games below .500 with three to play, the Panthers are still in contention. Such is life in Group 5 and a tough division like they play in, the American Silver. Consider the fact that it’s the only division in the Big Central with three ranked teams: No. 2 Ridge, No. 3 Hillsborough and No. 4 Phillipsburg. And they lost to all three by just a touchdown each; their five losses have come by an average 7.4 points. (Meanwhile, Spotswood is hanging on to a playoff berth at 6-0, but we’ll get to that when we get down to Group 2. In any event…) Bridgewater has a good schedule the rest of the way, and they may need to win all three. They start with Phillipsburg at home, then host Elizabeth next week before ending at Old Bridge.


4. Hillsborough (5-1): The Raiders come after Cherokee, Toms River North and Marlboro, and expect 15th place Lenape to make a massive jump when they play – after Cherokee this weekend – multipliers St. Joe’s-Hammonton next week and St. Augustine on Cutoff Weekend. Yes, the nasty NJSIAA double multiplier will wreak some havoc on behalf of this 2-4 Burlington County team, which lost in last year’s Central 5 sectional final to Edison. Be that as it may, Hillsborough maintained its position at No. 4 this week with another big win, this time over Union. They have a good schedule the rest of the way, with Hunterdon Central in Flemington this weekend, then home games with Somerville and Westfield for the last two. And there’s some distance behind them., so they’re not too bunched together here.

5. North Brunswick (5-0): Despite being unbeaten, the Raiders – who are just 0.8 UPR points behind Hillsborough – dropped from third place last week to fifth, after a 50-0 victory over 2-win Franklin. Their problem is things don’t get better with the schedule, with a pair of 0-6 and low-SI teams the next couple of weeks: New Brunswick home Friday and East Brunswick away next weekend, before coming back home to finish out with a good Cranford team that’s 3-2 and has a 68 SI. We say the Raiders could go 8-0 and still not reach the top four, especially if the teams above them continue to win. They may need one of them to slip and fall in order to climb the ladder.

9. Hunterdon Central (4-2): The Red Devils started 4-0, but have since lost two straight. Can they get back to their winning ways? If so, a home first-round playoff game at Stewart Field could be in the cards. They’re just one UPR point out of the top eight. But the top half – and then some – in this supersection is very good. There are two undefeated teams and five one-loss teams in the top 12, and none of those teams has more than two losses. The good news for Central is that two of the teams directly behind them – Kingsway and South Brunswick – are well behind by 1.6 UPR points, and West Windsor-Plainsboro in 12th is three full UPR points in arrears. Keep winning, and they’ll stave off the teams behind them. This weekend is a tough one against Hillsborough, but it’s at home. The next two weeks are not as challenging: at Franklin and home to Perth Amboy; both are 2-4.

11. South Brunswick (4-2): The Vikings are tied with Kingsway for 10th, but the Dragons would get the tiebreaker by virtue of having a higher OSI (50.18 to 47.25). Their last three weeks are a pretty good schedule, starting with a trip to Basking Ridge to take on Will Deady, Ryan Olivo and the Red Devils this Friday night. Next week, they get Edison at home, and finish at Brooks Field against Somerville. We don’t think they make the top eight even with a sweep, but a win or two should lock up a playoff berth.

16. Edison (3-3): The Eagles are the quintessential bubble team, and have three huge games left. We think two wins gives them a very good shot to be in the field, and if things go the way they are now, they might be better off squeaking in at 16 to avoid Toms River North in the opening round. Edison lost to the Mariners in last year’s Group 5 semifinal. The next three opponents are St. Joe’s this week at home, South Brunswick away next week, and St. Thomas Aquinas at home on Cutoff Weekend. One win, however, might not cut it.

18. Franklin (2-4): Yes, the Warriors may have a mathematical shot, and teams like Edison may have a lot to do with it, but the schedule isn’t kind to the Warriors. They have No. 9 Sayreville this week at home, followed by 4-2, but reeling, Hunterdon Central, then a Saturday Cutoff Weekend game at Plainfield. Considering Franklin needs to make up big ground, they probably need two wins to have a shot at getting in, maybe even all three. Against that slate, it’s a big ask.

Mid-Season Playoff Analysis: More than half-dozen BCC “big boys” have legitimate shot at top seeds

At the mid-way point of the high school season, with four more weeks of football until the playoffs are seeded, there are seven large – Group 5 or 4 schools – with a realistic shot at earning a top seed when the sectional playoffs begin the weekend of October 27th.

This is our first week of playoff projection analysis on cjsportsradio.com, presented by My Family Appliances in Edison, and we begin with a look at North and South Group 5 and 4 supersections..

With still a lot of football to be played, the analysis will be a bit more general in nature this week, but will get increasingly detailed with each passing week as the numbers come into better focus.

Playoff Qualification Primer

The NJSIAA uses the United Power Ranking (UPR) to determine where teams are seeded. Without getting into all the behind the scenes calculations and caveats, each team’s UPR is based on two factors: their rank in the supersection based on power points and on OSI.

Power points are an average and based on the traditional formula that’s been used – albeit altered from time-to-time – over the years. Teams get six points for every win, group points based on the group of the opponent, and residuals – 3 for every win by a team you beat, 1 for every win by a team you lost to.

OSI is the Opponent Strength Index, and average of all the opponents played. Teams get the full value of a team’s Strength Index for a win, half for a loss. A win over an opponent with an SI of 80 gets and 80, a loss gets you 40 points. SI varies based on results throughout the year.

Teams are ranked in each category. OSI values are worth 60 percent of the formula, power points 40 percent. That added number makes the UPR, with lower numbers better. The best UPR a team can have is a 1, which is first in both power points and OSI.

The UPR is calculated for the NJSIAA by the website Gridiron New Jersey. Central Jersey Sports Radio also does its own unofficial calculations throughout the season, and will unveil its playoff projections in our annual special broadcast, this year on Saturday, October 21 from 5-7 pm, presented by My Family Appliances in Edison.

North Group 5

There are three area teams in the top five at the moment. After Passaic Tech in first, there’s Watchung Hills second, Union third, then Union City, and Phillipsburg in fourth.

The Warriors (5-0) have a big clash at home Saturday night with Montgomery (5-0) so that could boost their power point average. Union also has a huge game at Cooke Field with Hillsborough, which just knocked off previously-undefeated P’burg Sunday in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers. The Stateliners try to get back on the horse Friday against Hunterdon Central, which just took its first loss of the season Friday to Ridge.

After that, there’s a chance for a home game for Plainfield, which is 3-1 at the moment and sitting in seventh. They go out of conference Friday night with a trip to North Bergen (2-2), and have a big one with Watchung Hills next week at home before closing at Monroe and home to Franklin, two very winnable games. The Cards look like the have a shot here.

Next, you have to go down to 12th to find Westfield, whose victory over winless Scotch Plains-Fanwood Friday probably did them no favors. The good news is, they Blue Devils are 2-2 after an 0-2 start, so they’re trending in the right direction. Westfield is at St. Joseph-Metuchen Saturday afternoon.

Though they’re on the right side of it at this point, we’ll call Piscataway and Bridgewater-Raritan bubble teams for now. The Chiefs (2-3) are in 14th, while the Panthers (1-4) are in 15th. This is a danger zone, because any team with one or two wins will make big jumps if they win a third or fourth game. So, they’ll have to watch teams behind them.

Of course, winning themselves will help.

The last four games for the Chiefs are winnable, starting with Old Bridge on the road this week, then East Brunswick home on Friday, October 6th – a game you can hear on CJSR at 6 pm from Kenny Armwood Stadium. Sayreville and New Brunswick close out their schedule.

Bridgewater-Raritan has a much more difficult schedule. They’re at Ridge this week, and home to Phillipsburg the next, before Elizabeth and a road game at Old Bridge round out the slate.

South Group 5

Two area teams are in the top six here, and you need to finish in the top two to get a top seed in one of the sections, South or Central 5. North Brunswick (4-0) currently sits in fourth, with a 3.4 UPR, just one UPR point behind second-place Toms River North (4-1).

The problem for the Raiders is their schedule is not conducive to climbing up the rankings. Of the four teams remaining, two are winless (New Brunswick and East Brunswick) and Franklin (this week) and Cranford (Cutoff Weekend) each have just two wins at the moment. As far as a top-seed is concerned, there’s zero margin for error here.

Hillsborough sits in sixth at 4-1, and got a big boost with its upset win over previously-unbeaten Phillipsburg. That was 20 power points for the win, as opposed to four for a loss. They’ll have similar opportunities the next two weeks – both on the road – against Union and Hunterdon Central. And their last two home games against Somerville and Westfield won’t hurt them either. Running the table could give them a really good shot.

Hunterdon Central currently sits in eighth, and should be able to get a first round home game. Their remaining four games are a mixed bag. They should beat both Franklin and Perth Amboy to end the regular season, so a first-round playoff game (top 8 finish in the supersection) could ride on getting at least one win in the next two weeks, which includes a trip to Phillipsburg this Friday night, and a home game against Hillsborough next weekend.

South Brunswick sits in 11th, well enough inside the bubble, but also fairly likely a bottom eight finish.

On the bubble are Edison and Franklin. The Eagles are the defending Central Jersey Group 5 champs, and 2-3 at the moment. There are some winnable games on the schedule for the Eagles, including a home game with New Brunswick this Friday night.

The Warriors, however, are another story. While 2-3, their wins have come against East Brunswick and New Brunswick, opponents who are a combined 0-10. Their next three opponents – North Brunswick on the road this week and Sayreville and Hunterdon Central are a combined 11-3. So, we’ll not only see how much Franklin has improved this year, but whether a must-have win against at least one of those teams can get them in the playoffs.

North Group 4

In the top four are two Big Central teams from very competitive divisions, which explains why they’re there. Montgomery sits in third at 5-0, with a 4 UPR, two points behind second place Mount Olive. Then Ridge is right behind them – literally – with a 4.2 UPR. Northern Highlands is right behind the Red Devils with a 4.4 UPR.

This is very bunched up right now, and with a lot of football to be played, too close to call. Bottom line: Montgomery and Ridge will need to keep on winning. A loss by either team might make too high a mountain to climb to get into the top two.

Linden (4-1) has looked very good this year, and the Tigers claim seventh place this week in the UPR standings. They’ve got a reasonable schedule the rest of the way with JFK at home this week, then at Summit and Cranford before finishing at Montgomery in what could be a critical game to clinch at least a first-round home game.

Woodbridge looks like a pretty good playoff bet. The Barrons are tenth and 3-2 on the season, and Rahway – also 3-2 on the year – is right behind them. Woodbridge could have a legit shot at a top eight finish and a first round home game, Rahway a little less so, but they still have a chance with four weeks left and a good enough schedule that could give them a boost. They may have to go 3-1 the rest of the way to do it, though.

Sayreville sits in 13th, and while I wouldn’t call them a bubble team yet, the 3-2 Bombers can’t get complacent. Granted, their losses have come to Phillipsburg and North Brunswick, the only two teams that have occupied the top spot in the CJSR rankings. If Sayreville is as good as their preseason hype, they should do no worse than 3-1 the rest of the way.

Outside the bubble and a longshot to make the field is Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which is 1-4 and in 19th place. But more interesting is Colonia. The Patriots are 2-3, but all the way down in 21st place. They have a 20.2 UPR, 4.8 points out of a playoff spot. The schedule is favorable with winless North Hunterdon coming to the blue turf this week, and then a visit to 2-3 Perth Amboy next week. It could come down to the last two weeks – with home games against Summit and Rahway, two teams in the playoff field – to decide Colonia’s playoff fate.

South Group 4

While there are no Big Central teams in this section, it’s worth mentioning briefly since New Jersey now plays all the way to group champs. For now, we’ll just point out that the top two teams are Mainland (5-0) and Millville (3-1), followed by WInslow (4-1) and Brick Memorial (5-0).