The Greater Middlesex and Mid-State football conferences have released their 2019 composite schedules, their next-to-last ones as separate leagues before they form the Big Central Football Conference in 2021.
But the final divisional alignments are almost as intriguing.
The GMC will have a Gold Division for the second year in a row and – at least on paper – it will include Highland Park, which forfeited much of its season last year due to low numbers and a lack of participation.
Perhaps the most notable move is Piscataway from the GMC Red Division to the White. The Red is traditionally the “top” division; in 2019 it will include the largest schools by enrollment, but the White is likely to include some of the league’s top teams. It will feature bowl champs Sayreville and Piscataway, sectional finalist North Brunswick, and sectional semifinalist Edison, as well as New Brunswick.
Elsewhere, Woodbridge moves from the White to the Blue with in-town rivals JFK and Colonia.
Here are the Greater Middlesex Conference Divisions:
Red: East Brunswick, JP Stevens, Monroe, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, South Brunswick
White: Edison, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway, Sayreville
Blue: Carteret, Colonia, JFK, St. Joseph, South Plainfield, Woodbridge
Gold: Bishop Ahr, Dunellen, Highland Park, Metuchen, Middlesex, South River, Spotswood
No Somerset County schools will move for the upcoming season.
Area teams in the Mid-State Conference include:
Delaware: Bridgewater-Raritan, Franklin, Hillsborough, Ridge (along with Hunterdon Central and Phillipsburg)
Watchung: None (others include Elizabeth, Linden, Plainfield, Watchung Hills, Westfield, and Union)
Raritan: Immaculata, Montgomery (along with Cranford, North Hunterdon and Scotch Plains-Fanwood)
Mountain: North Plainfield and Somerville (along with Governor Livingston, Rahway, Summit, Voorhees, and Warren Hills)
Valley: Bernards (along with Delaware Valley, Hillside, Johnson, Roselle
Union: Bound Brook, Manville (along with Belvidere, Brearley, Dayton, New Providence, Roselle Park and South Hunterdon)
Schedule-wise, the GMC-Mid State crossovers are always interesting. Despite being in separate divisions, Piscataway and South Brunswick will crossover in 2019. And the Chiefs will face St. Joe’s of Metuchen, a perennial power in the White. Sayreville will get a crack at Piscataway, now as divisional foes once again. So will North Brunswick, a program on the rise under third-year head coach and 2018 WCTC Coach of the Year Mike Cipot.
The five-team GMC White Division will lend itself to many crossovers, with only four divisional opponents in a nine-game regular season. Piscataway will travel to Union County foe Elizabeth, while welcoming Somerset County foe Elizabeth. Meanwhile, the master schedule provided by the leagues puts Franklin at Piscataway on Thanksgiving Day, though that game could be played Week Zero; last year, both coaches and schools announced they expected the 2018 Turkey day tussle to be the last, thanks to the reconfiguring and expansion of the state playoff schedule.
Other non-divisional highlights for White Division teams include New Brunswick playing “up” to East Brunswick and “down” to Woodbridge, a home game against Watchung Hills, and a trip up to Jersey City for a non-conference game against Dickinson. Edison will host Westfield as its only crossover with the Mid-State. Sayreville will open at home against Hunterdon Central and travel to Union on cutoff weekend; they still have an open date in Week 3. And North Brunswick closes with three Mid-State opponents: Linden and Hunterdon Central at home, finishing at Westfield.
The Red Division has only a few Mid-State crossovers: Old Bridge visits Franklin in Week 7. East Brunswick hosts Hillsborough that same week. JP Stevens visits Cranford in Week 6 and has an open week before hosting Plainfield on the cutoff. Monroe travels to Somerville to face Immaculata in Week 7. And Perth Amboy goes to Montgomery in Week 8.
The Blue finds Woodbridge visiting Bridgewater-Raritan in Week 8. Colonia goes to Hillsborough and Scotch Plains-Fanwood in Weeks 6 and 8, respectively. St. Joe’s hosts Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Immaculata back-to-back in Weeks 6 and 7. Carteret entertains Scotch Plains in Week 2 then Immaculata in Week 5. And South Plainfield opens in Somerville on Week Zero versus Immaculata, then treks to North Hunterdon in Week 5.
The Gold finds a few more crossovers; in fact, this division was one of the driving factors in the merger. Teams like Metuchen, Highland Park and Dunellen often struggled to find competitive games with like-sized schools in the Shore Conference.
Metuchen hosts Delaware Valley in Week 3 and Manville in Week 7, while also playing Shore foe Keyport in Week Zero. Bishop Ahr gets to go to Delaware Valley in Week Zero, then hosts Hillside in Week 5, and travels to Bernards in Week 7. Spotswood opens with Hillside at home in Week Zero, goes to Bernards in Week 2, and visits Roselle the week before the cutoff. South River opens with Roselle at Denny Stadium Week Zero, goes to Hillside Week 4, and hosts Roselle Park in Week 7. Middlesex gets crossovers in its final three games: home to Johnson, then at South Hunterdon and Bernards. Highland Park opens with a Week Zero game at South Hunterdon, then hosts Dayton in Week 7 before closing at Roselle. Dunellen still has an open date in Week One, but the Destroyers will host Brearley in Week 7, then go to Clark to play Johnson on the cutoff.
Also of note: Immaculata will face Somerville for the first time since 2008, when the teams square off at Brooks Field on turf they both call home; it’ll be a “home” game for Somerville. The Pioneers, meanwhile, will play Hamilton West at home in Week Zero. Manville will open with a Week Zero game at Point Pleasant Beach.