The new NJSIAA high school football classifications recently released will no doubt get extra scrutiny this year, as a massive overhaul of the state playoff system takes hold. But the classifications won't affect many Central Jersey schools, at least for the time being.
While most of the teams at least will be competing for power points against most of the same schools they've always been, that could change once the seeds are settled. That's because each group is no longer divided into four regional sections (North 1 and 2, Central and South). Instead, there are two sections (North and South) in each group. Once the top 16 teams in each of those sections are determined, they will be broken up into smaller groups of eight based on geography.
That could mean Piscataway is in North 2 one week, but in North 1 - against a slew of different teams - by the cutoff. It all depends where the qualified teams are from. If the top-16 are top-heavy towards former North 1 teams, Piscataway would be in North 2 against more familiar foes. If the traditional North 2 teams are stronger, Piscataway - if they are one of the more Northern teams based on geography - could be competing against a lot of schools they've never met.
In any event, only five schools in the WCTC coverage area will be "moving" this year. Only one is moving to another group, as Sayreville is back in Group 5 for the first time since 2013 and 2014, the second and third years of the new "Group 5." They were in Group 4 the first year of the additional section, and have been since 2015. The Bombers are moving from North 2, Group 4 last season to South 5.
The other four teams are moving only to different sections. Perth Amboy (Group 5), Carteret (Group 3), South Plainfield (Group 3), and Bound Brook (Group 1) all are moving from Central - where they would have been lumped in with South - to North.
Perth Amboy has five other area schools in their section, and should be no stranger to some of them. Of course, Perth Amboy had never qualified for the playoffs before last season, so there's little history here.
Bound Brook also should be no stranger to some of the teams in the North. Dunellen is in their section as well.
But it will be a little different for Carteret and South Plainfield. They'll now be in with the likes of Indian Hills, Jefferson, Dover, Sparta and Vernon. Can you imagine how cold it would be for the Ramblers or Tigers in a November 17th sectional final on a Friday night at Vernon? And good luck with that traffic.
Below is a list of area teams, by section:
- North 5: Bridgewater-Raritan, JP Stevens, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, Ridge, Watchung Hills
- South 5: East Brunswick, Edison, Franklin, Hillsborough, Monroe, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Sayreville, South Brunswick
- North 4: Colonia, JFK, Montgomery, Woodbridge
- South 4: none
- North 3: Carteret, North Plainfield, South Plainfield
- South 3: Somerville
- North 2: none
- South 2: Bernards, Metuchen, South River, Spotswood
- North 1: Bound Brook, Dunellen
- South 1: Highland Park, Manville, Middlesex
There was only one change with a non-public school in the area (of which there are only three): St. Joseph of Metuchen remains in Non-Public Group 4, but has moved down to a Group 3 school for the purpose of the public vs. non-public equivalent.