With Athletic Directors waiting until the last minute to make the call on whether to play or postpone because of the heavy winds and drenching rain up and down the coast, all schools scheduled to play, did play, with some interesting results.

Middletown South, the #1 ranked team in the Shore, made a serious statement against 3 time defending State Champ Rumson with a 14-13 one point thriller.  Toms River North had no trouble with a pretty good Howell team (2-2) and put up 58 points, and again were pretty much unstoppable on offense.  The 58-33 victory gets us one week closer to what looks like the game of the year, when Middletown South plays Toms River North on October 21st at Middletown South - we'll set that one up in a few weeks.  SJV (4-0) came to tradition-rich Brick and won in overtime 22-14.  Wall, Mater Dei, Manalapan, Freehold Twp, and Point Borough all won their 4th straight and remain unbeaten.  Wall faces the toughest challenge this week as the 3-1 Casey's of Red Bank Catholic come calling.  Lakewood (3-0) was on a bye this past week and will take their unbeaten record to a suddenly hot 3-1 Lacey team, who gets better each week.  The other team on upset alert is Mater Dei Prep who entertains always tough Shore (3-1) on Saturday afternoon.  The rest of the unbeaten should have no trouble this week and all should move to 5-0 and just about lock up a playoff berth after just 5 weeks.  The coaches won't tell you that, but I can make that call.  In fact no coach will even say the word playoffs, let alone say we are looking at standings in their specific group.  With that in mind, here goes my take:

First I'll review the difficult to understand rules of the New Jersey playoff system.   A team will earn power points in 3 different ways from a game, depending on whether it wins, loses, or ties.

  1. In a win: A team receives 6 "quality" points for the win, regardless of the opponent.  The team also receives 1-5 "group" points based on the opponent's group.  Finally, the winning team will receive 3 "residual" points for every win the opponent, and in rare cases, 1.5 points if the opponent has a tie on its record.
  2. Example: If Middletown South beats Rumson in week 4, Middletown South gets 6 quality points and 3 group points since Rumson is a Group 3 school, plus 6 residual points since Rumson was 2-0 entering the game.  So in total, Middletown South got 15 points for winning.  Middletown South will also get 3 more points for any additional wins Rumson gets through week 8.
  3. In a loss:  the losing team will receive no quality points, plus no group points.  The losing team will get 1 residual point for each win by the opponent, except for the win from that game.
  4. How many games count:  A team's first 8 games count toward its final power points total, but each team will drop the lowest power point game, and the highest 7 are used to calculate the final total.

You get it?  Clear as the mud I was standing in at Brick High School on Friday night!  As we get closer, the numbers will begin to make sense, but let the so called experts decide the final numbers, because there are sure to be controversial situations.  Just ask Central Regional about controversial decisions!  Now let's look at the Groups:

Non-Public 2:  Mater Dei Prep (4-0) is our rep here.  They will be tested big time in this group.  Keep in mind that they have never won a State title.  2 teams stand out in this section: Holy Spirit (4-0) and St Joe's (Hamminton) (3-1) are the class of group.  Holy Spirit has already beaten St. Joe's 17-14 in OT earlier this season. St. Joe's has won 25 State titles and Holy Spirit has won 10 State titles.  Others in this group are also playoff worthy and merit mention: Hudson Catholic (3-1), Immaculata (2-2), and Holy Cross (2-2) always seem to be in hunt.  Will the schedule that Mater Dei Prep plays prepare them for the upcoming playoff run?  Should be very interesting.

Non-Public 3:  2 big teams here: SJV (4-0) and RBC (3-1) represent the Shore. They will have to beat perineal State Champ St. Joe Montvale (3-1) who have won 17 State titles.  Camden Catholic (3-0) is also tough in this group.

South 4:  Toms River North (4-0) is the defending Champ and the favorite this year.  2 undefeated teams will challenge: Vineland (4-0) and Rancocas Valley (4-0).  The surprise here is that always tough Williamstown is 1-3 and will have to work to get in.  North beat Williamstown 14-7 in the finals last year and Toms River North has won 6 State titles.

South 4:  This is a loaded group!  Our lone rep could be Toms River South (2-2).  I believe they will have to get 5 wins to make the bracket.  Teams to watch are Lenape (4-0), Cherry Hill West (4-0), Timber Creek (3-0), Shawnee (3-0) and Hammonton (3-1).  A truely loaded group.

South 3:  Another pretty loaded group with Wall (4-0), Lakewood (3-0), Lacey (3-1) as our representives.  Challengers include Oakcrest (4-0), Burlington Twp (3-1), Deptford (3-1), Pemberton (3-1), and Camden (3-1). They all should get in.  Perineal Champ Delsea (1-3) has won 13 State titles and if they can make it in they would be dangerous.  Wall has won 3 State titles, Lacey 4, and Lakewood 1.  By the way, Lacey and Lakewood play each other this week at Lacey on Saturday afternoon.

South 2:  Barnegat (2-2) and Manchester (2-2) represent the Shore, but need more wins to get in.  There are 3 unbeaten so far in this group: Cinnaminson (4-0), West Deptford (3-0) and Haddonfield (3-0) look like the class of this group.  Cedar Creek (3-1), Collingswood (2-2), and Pleasantville (2-2) will also challenge.

Central 5:  This is a difficult group with Manalapan (4-0) and Freehold Twp (4-0) as our reps, and should get in, however they will have to get through Piscataway (3-0) to win it.  Hillsborough (3-1), Hun. Centra l(2-2), and Old Bridge (2-1-1) will probably make it in, with South Brunswick (1-2) lurking.  South Brunswick is the defending Champ and has been defeated by Old Bridge 31-28 in game 1 this year.  Manalapan beat Old Bridge 41-0 in week 3. Manalapan will play Piscataway in week 8, just before the cutoff, and then the Braves face Freehold Twp. in week 9 just before the playoffs begin.  Game 9 will not count for playoff points.

Central 4:  This is usually a blood bath group, though not necessarily this year, but it's a very competitive bunch.  Brick (2-2) and Jackson (2-2) are our best here.  Brick beat Jackson 29-6 earlier this year.  The 2 have met the last 2 years with Brick winning the first game and Jackson winning in the playoffs.  Could it happen 3 years in a row?  Nottingham (3-1), Moorestown (2-2), Allentown (3-2), and Pennsauken (2-1) are others you will see in this group.  It's a wide open group: get hot at the end and you win a State Championship.

Central 3:  This is an excellent group with many challengers. Rumson (2-1) is the 2 time defending champ in this group and 3 time overall as they won group 2 in 2013.  They have 4 overall titles.  Ocean (2-3), with Senior QB Kenny Pickett would like a shot, but have to work to get in.  South Planefield (4-0), Rahway (4-0), Somerville (4-0) and Carteret(3-0) are all unbeaten and the main Rumson challengers.

Central 2:  Point Boro (4-0), Manasquan (3-1) look to make some noise here.  Both should make it in and Roselle (4-0) and Spotswood (4-0) await.  Lincoln (2-2) made it to the finals last year undefeated, and lost to Raritan 28-26, so they must be respected this year.

Central 1:  The usual suspects are again in the hunt. Shore (3-1), Asbury Park (3-1), Keyport (3-1) and Point Beach (2-2) all are viable winners.  New Egypt (3-1), Manville (3-1) and Haddon Twp (2-1) all should make it in. This is a Shore group, they gave owned it over the years. I look for the winner to come out of the top 4 up top.

North 2 Group 4:  Middletown South (4-0) and Middletown North (2-1) play in this group and represent the Shore well.  Sayreville (4-0) is back and very good this year.  Summit (4-0) has one of their better teams this year.  Phillisburg (2-2) is always strong and must be respected.  Throw in WW North (2-2), JFK Iselin (3-1), and North Hun.(3-1) and you have a pretty tough road for our 2 Shore teams.

Well, there is a mid-season report on this year's playoffs.  Things will change and seeds will be determined, but for the most part, all your potential winners are somewhere on this list.

The Gateway Toyota Coaches Corner takes us to the River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar in Brick on Thursday night at 7PM.  Join us as we talk Manasquan football with head coach Jay Price and a couple of his players. Also on the show will be the head coach of Monmouth University Kevin Callahan and 2 great local players, Mike Basile from Brick Memorial and  Demetrius Smith from Jackson.  Can't make it down?  Join us on 105.7 The Hawk or at ShoreSportsNetwork.com.

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