Wall playoff game pushed back after NJSIAA implements ‘play-in’ game
Wall, the top-ranked team in the Shore Conference and the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group 3 state playoffs, has been forced to delay its opening-round game because of an 11th-hour decision by the NJSIAA to implement a play-in game between Allentown and Robbinsville.
Allentown and Robbinsville will play on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with the winner officially earning the final playoff spot and then facing Wall on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The undefeated Crimson Knights earned the No. 1 seed in the South, Group 3 super section following an 8-0 regular season that was highlighted by victories over Rumson-Fair Haven, Mater Dei Prep, Jackson Memorial and St. John Vianney. Robbinsville also finished the regular season unbeaten (9-0), but under vastly different circumstances, and was 17th in the final United Power Ranking. The top 16 teams make the playoffs.
Robbinsville has not had a winning record since 2007, including two winless seasons, before this season’s breakout. The combined record of its opponents this season is 22-42, including two teams with zero wins and three more with only one win.
However, a new rule implemented for this season states that any team that finishes the regular season undefeated with eight or more wins will automatically be eligible for the state playoffs. Because of that new rule, which came about after Delran finished last season 7-1 but did not qualify for the playoffs and protested to the NJSIAA, Robbinsville jumped over the No. 16 team, Allentown (4-4), for the final playoff spot.
The wording of the NJSIAA playoff regulation, specifically the word ‘eligible’ and the fact the document does not specify which team gets bumped out of the playoffs to make room for an undefeated team not already in the top 16, opened the door for Allentown to challenge the decision. The NJSIAA decided its best course of action would be to create a play-in game, which Robbinsville will host on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
This decision clearly affects Wall and also Matawan, the latter of which was set to play Allentown in an NJSIAA regional crossover game on Thursday. Matawan will now play Plainfield at 11 a.m.
The situation is more frustrating for Wall, which plays its home games on Friday nights but will now have to wait until Sunday to begin its championship quest, all because the Is weren’t dotted and Ts weren’t crossed on a new rule and its ramifications. The NJSIAA regulations have no mention of a play-in game anywhere in the document.
Wall could not play the winner of the Robbinsville/Allentown game on Friday night because the National Federation of High School Associations recommends, but - does not require - teams play no more than two games in a nine-day period. Robbinsville played on Saturday. The NJSIAA asked Wall to host the first-round game on Monday but Wall objected.
Regardless of which team Wall plays, the Crimson Knights will be the heavy favorite. Assuming they move on, the schedule now becomes their problem moving forward. They would have to turn around and play a sectional semifinal game on Friday, Nov. 15 following the Sunday game on Nov. 10. If they reach the sectional championship game they will be playing three games in 12 days.
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