NJSIAA Tournament Football Brackets
Here are the state tournament brackets involving Shore Conference football teams that were released by the NJSIAA on Sunday.
The playoffs begin next weekend with the quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals a week later and then the state championship games on the weekend of Dec. 5-6.
I also threw in a quick comment about each bracket. We will have a full state playoff preview during the week. Twenty-four of the 43 teams in the Shore Conference have qualified for the playoffs.
(8) East Brunswick at (1) South Brunswick; (7) Monroe at (2) Hillsborough; (6) Old Bridge at (3) Manalapan; (5) Trenton at (4) Montgomery.
Quick take: Manalapan avoids unbeaten South Brunswick until the final, but will have no easy road in that it will have to go through a tough Hillsborough team and then most likely South Brunswick to win its first state title after losing in the finals in each of the past three years. The Braves looked like they were going to run into South Brunswick in the semifinals but moved up a seed because Hunterdon Central (4-5), the team that beat them in last year's CJ Group V final, upset Westfield (5-3) on Saturday.
(8) Burlington Township at (1) Middletown South; (7) Princeton at (2) Brick; (6) Middletown North at (3) Jackson Memorial; (5) Freehold Boro at (4) Neptune.
Quick take: Buckle your seat belts. This is a battle royale. Things seem to have fallen in place nicely for Middletown South, which vaulted to the No. 1 seed thanks to its 42-0 wipeout of Freehold Boro on Friday night. The Eagles get either Freehold Boro or Neptune, who they have beaten by a combined 83-0 this season, in the semifinals at The Swamp. Meanwhile, there is a good chance we will have Jackson Memorial-Brick Part II in the semifinals at Brick after the Green Dragons beat Jackson 30-24 in overtime in a regular-season classic. Brick is the defending champion, while Jackson Memorial is the hottest team in the Shore right now, so that is a tall task for Middletown North in the first round. For all those who will be complaining about the Top 10 rankings in the coming weeks, this bracket should settle it all on the field.
(8) Ocean at (1) Hopewell Valley; (7) Hamilton West at (2) Long Branch; (6) Nottingham at (3) Carteret; (5) Matawan at (4) Raritan.
Quick take: The football gods smiled upon a 3-5 Ocean team, which snuck in as the eighth seed because Lawrence was stunned by a previously 0-8 Willingboro team on Saturday. The Spartans will face defending champion Hopewell Valley, which knocked Ocean out in the semifinals last year. Hopewell jumped Long Branch for the No. 1 seed by virtue of its win over Northern Burlington on Friday night. Long Branch looks to be in a good spot because it could end up hosting Carteret, a team it beat 31-6 earlier this season, in the semifinals. Raritan secured a home game against Matawan but the edge still has to go to Matawan, which beat the Rockets during the regular season and has five straight wins over Raritan.
(8) Lakewood at (1) Roselle; (7) A.L. Johnson at (2) Rumson-FH; (6) Bordentown at (3) Cinnaminson; (5) Delaware Valley at (4) Spotswood.
Quick take: Defending champion Rumson looked like it was in line for the No. 1 seed but got jumped by Roselle thanks to Roselle's win over previously undefeated Bernards on Saturday. Lakewood lost to Point Boro on Saturday but still snuck in as the No. 8 seed with a tall task of knocking off Roselle. Rumson could end up with a potential battle against Cinnaminson (7-1) in the semifinals, so not getting that No. 1 seed made their road harder than it would have been as they try to win back-to-back titles for the first time in school history. After sitting out Charlie Volker this week against Holmdel to get his injured ankle back close to 100 percent, they should be ready to unleash him and ride an improving defense to another final, where Roselle will most likely be waiting.
(8) Point Beach at (1) Shore; (7) Florence at (2) Palmyra; (6) Metuchen at (3) South Hunterdon; (5) New Egypt at (4) Middlesex.
Quick take: Shore will play defending champion Point Beach for the fourth time in the last two seasons and already has a 17-0 win over the Garnet Gulls, who are ravaged by injuries and were routed by Mater Dei Prep on Saturday. Shore is the clear favorite. A potential semifinal against Middlesex could be a battle, but this is Shore's bracket to lose.
(8) Toms River North at (1) Lenape; (7) Millville at (2) Rancocas Valley; (6) Atlantic City at (3) Williamstown; (5) Brick Memorial at (4) Cherokee.
Quick take: Long odds for both Shore teams. Lenape is undefeated and just beat Rancocas Valley 14-10 to stamp itself as the favorite, so Toms River North is a heavy underdog. Winning at Cherokee is never easy, and even if Brick Memorial can find its way through that, Lenape is most likely waiting in another road game for the Mustangs in the semifinals.
South Jersey Group IV - no qualifiers
(8) Cumberland at (1) Allentown; (7) Wall at (2) Delsea; (6) Manasquan at (3) Bridgeton; (5) Oakcrest at (4) Central.
Quick take: Central might be the Shore's best bet among the teams in South Jersey brackets to actually get a win, which would only be the second playoff win in Central history and the first since it reached its only state final in 1994. That game will most likely be played on one of the turf fields at the three Toms River schools because Central has played all its games on the road this year due to renovations on its home field.
The Crimson Knights will have to go to defending champion Delsea and Manasquan will be at third-seeded Bridgeton. Allentown has only one state playoff victory in its history but has been impressive, including a 38-14 win over a Hopewell Valley team that is the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group III. That means if Central gets by Oakcrest for its first playoff win in 20 years, it will have a tough game on the road at Allentown, while Delsea looks like the favorite to emerge from the other side of the bracket even though it's not as powerful as last year.
(8) Collingswood at (1) Camden; (7) Barnegat at (2) Buena; (6) Woodstown at (3) Haddonfield; (5) West Deptford at (4) Glassboro.
Quick take: This looks like the sickest small-school bracket in the state. As Barnegat coach Rob Davis noted in a tweet, the combined record of the eight teams in this section is 58-7. Barnegat has to go to undefeated Buena, and the Bengals have to do it without star quarterback Cinjun Erskine. The Bucknell-bound senior fractured his ankle in a loss to Matawan on Friday night and is out for the season, so he will be replaced by senior wideout Ricky Gerena, who has stepped in at quarterback in the past when Erskine has been banged up. If Barnegat even wins a game in this bracket, that's a home run, but it's a long shot.
(1) Delbarton bye; (7) Bishop Eustace at (2) Red Bank Catholic; (6) Camden Catholic at (3) St. Joseph's-Montvale; (5) Pope John XXIII at (4) St. John Vianney.
Quick take: For a minute it looked like three-time defending champion St. Joe's was going to leap RBC for the two seed after its eye-opening, 27-0 beatdown of the No. 4 team in the country, Paramus Catholic, on Saturday, but RBC held on by one power point. What that most likely means is that the Caseys will roll over Bishop Ahr in the first round and then at least force St. Joe's to make the trip to Count Basie Field after losing to the Green Knights up in Montvale in the semifinals in each of the last two years. Given St. Joe's performance on Saturday against Paramus, though, it still is going to take the game of RBC's life to get out of that semifinal.
St. John Vianney should have a battle in the first round in a match-up featuring two stellar quarterbacks. Lancers junior Anthony Brown leads the Shore Conference in passing yards and touchdown passes, while Pope John XXIII features quarterback Sonny Abramson, who has nine FBS offers. The Lancers, who are 9-0 for the first time ever, are going to have to work to get their first state playoff win since 1981. They at least avoid St. Joe's early on, but undefeated Delbarton on the road in the semifinals is no picnic, either, and the Lancers would be the decided underdog.
(1) St. Joseph's-Hammonton bye; (7) Morris Catholic at (2) St. Mary's-Rutherford; (6) Marist at (3) St. Anthony; (5) Mater Dei Prep at (4) Morristown-Beard.
Quick take: Mater Dei Prep will go up to Morristown-Beard for the second straight season after beating the Crimson in the first round last year for their first playoff win since 1999. With an explosive offense that has put up 50-plus-points in three games this season, the Seraphs are equipped to once again get a win in that spot and make it to the semifinals. The bad news is that they then have to go south into the threshing machine known as St. Joseph's-Hammonton, the 800-pound gorilla loaded with FBS talent that has won 23 state titles.