When the Greater Middlesex Conference and Mid-State 37 Conference finalized their 2018 schedules last week, the result revealed a number of intriguing crossover matchups thanks to the new scheduling agreement. Piscataway vs. Westfield and St. Joe's-Metuchen vs. Immaculata are just a couple of the highlights.
Maybe there will be different crossovers in the future, but some good opportunities also slipped by those who drew up the 2018 slates. Here are four we wish we could see:
New Brunswick-Franklin: While most of Franklin - geographically - is farmland and backroads (if you've never been along the D&R Towpath down to Rocky Hill, you're missing out), the northeastern part of Franklin blends right into New Brunswick between Hamilton Street and Route 27. The brand-new New Brunswick High School is on the border with Franklin. And despite the Warriors' new home field moving out to their new high school on Elizabeth Avenue several years ago, the vast majority of Franklin's population is close to New Brunswick. So this would make sense from a geographical standpoint. Yet, these two schools have never played. Ever. The closest we ever got was in 1965, when Franklin beat now-closed St. Peter's of New Brunswick 19-0. That's it. The Warriors still play Piscataway every Thanksgiving, in a rivalry that dates back to 1962. New Brunswick's only crossover this year is Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Their divisional crossovers are down to the Blue with Carteret and Colonia. From a school size standpoint and won-loss record standpoint, not playing Franklin is a missed opportunity for a game that makes people circle the date on their calendars.
Woodbridge-Rahway or Colonia-Rahway: On paper, based only on school size, either of these could be a size mismatch. They're only one group apart (in 2007, the NJSIAA had Woodbridge and Colonia in North 2, Group 4, while Rahway was in Group 3). The difference is about 200 students. But geographically, this would make much more sense than Colonia's crossover with Summit, or the Barrons' crossover with Morris Hills. Rahway essentially borders the neighborhoods both Woodbridge and Colonia draw from, and it's been a long time since their last meeting with either school. The Patriots and Rahway last met in 1977, with Colonia leading the series 7-3. Woodbridge is 0-4 against Rahway all-time, in a series that stretched from 1915 to 1929. So, maybe they'll bring this back in 2019, for the first meeting in 90 years? Now, that would be a story!
Sayreville-Phillipsburg: This is going to sound hypocritical, since I've been preaching geographical matchups, but hear me out. Sure, these two schools are 60 miles apart. But in the NJSIAA classifications for 2017, their populations are 34 students apart, so they're virtually the same size. And they are communities in which football reigns supreme; a throwback to a simpler time. Both schools draw thousands - not hundreds - to their games, and have extremely loyal followings. Yet, they've only met once before, in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs, a game Sayreville dominated in Phillipsburg. Also, neither of these teams have a single crossover with the other conference. What's the fun in that? A number of Mid-State 37 schools don't, but only 3 GMC schools don't meet the MS-37 (Sayreville, North Brunswick and Monroe). Sure, the travel would be a pain, I get that, but you have two passionate fan bases, one with the winningest program in New Jersey history, and the other with four state titles in the last 8 years, and last 7 years of playoff eligibility. If you want to complain about the distance, and getting out to the state line in rush-hour traffic (or vice-versa), just play the game on a Saturday. Despite the distance, this is another missed opportunity.
Piscataway-Hunterdon Central: Another fairly lengthy trip (24.4 miles, but a lot of lights on Route 202 and a congested stretch on Friday nights along Route 287), these two schools have a lengthy history and are major rivals, even though they no longer play every year. They've only played six times in the regular season, splitting a series that ran from 1977 to 1982. But they've played often in the playoffs. The Chiefs lost to the Red Devils in championship games in 1998 and 1999, before the Chiefs broke through in 2002, in the final game as head coach for the legendary Joe Kuronyi. In 2007, Hunterdon Central beat Piscatway for a championship. In 2008 and 2010, it was the Chiefs winning titles by beating Hunterdon Central. They've met two more times since, both in the first round of the playoffs, and both were wins for the Chiefs, one of which came in overtime out in Flemington in one of the greatest high school football games I've ever seen. In summary: six regular season games split, six title games split, and two other playoff wins for the Chiefs. It's a big deal when these two schools meet. Of course, Piscataway's two crossovers are big ones: the annual Thanksgiving Day meeting with Franklin, and a regular season finale at Westfield - which hasn't lost a game since 2014 en route to three straight state titles, and it would be tough for me to suggest ditching one of those (although Westfield is only intriguing because of their current streak). And the Chiefs' divisional crossover is with Sayreville - also a huge rival and a must-have game. But it doesn't hurt to dream of this one. Maybe next year?