The second weekend of the state playoffs in New Jersey will include six public schools playing sectional semifinal game – with four of them at home – while Immaculata will open its postseason with a quarterfinal game.
Here is the by-day schedule of next week’s high school football action for area teams:
3-Clifton (6-3) at 2-Ridge (8-1), 7 pm (North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 5 semifinals)
5-Cherokee (4-5) at 1-North Brunswick (9-1), 7 pm (Central Jersey – Group 5 semifinals)
3-Hillsborough (8-2) at 2-Lenape (8-1), 7 pm (South Jersey – Group 5 semifinals)
6-Randolph at 2-Woodbridge (9-0), 7 pm (North Jersey, Section 1 – Group 4 semifinals)
6-Seneca at 2-Somerville (9-1), 7 pm (South Jersey – Group 3 semifinals)
3-Bernards (8-1) at 2-Cedar Creek, 12 pm (Central Jersey – Group 2 semifinals)
6-Immaculata (4-5) at 3-Hudson Catholic (3-6), 1 pm (Non-Public – Group 2 Quarterfinals)
It’s the fewest area teams in the semifinals since 2015, when six teams also advanced past the opening weekend. (Note: An Immaculata win next week would technically make it seven teams advancing to semifinals since Non-Public 2 is a week behind.)
However, that season, there were two all-local semifinals, guaranteeing at least two teams would reach sectional championship games. Ridge and Bridgewater-Raritan met in the North 2, Group 5 semi, with the Panthers eventually going on to play the first of their three straight epic sectional title games against Westfield. Old Bridge and New Brunswick squared off in the Central 5 semifinal, with the Knights shocking the Zebras, eventually falling in the title game to South Brunswick. Colonia lost at Phillipsburg in the North 2, Group 4 semifinal, while Immaculata lost its Non-Public Group 2 semifinal game at St. Joe’s of Hammonton.
Last year, ten area teams made the semifinals in seven different sections, with nine going as far in 2017.
Since the playoffs were instituted in 1974, at least one WCTC-area team every year has qualified for a state sectional final. The most to reach a title game in one year was seven in 1984.
Only twice has just one team reached a final. In 2005, Piscataway went to the North 2, Group 4 finals and lost to Phillipsburg. And in 2013, Ridge defeated Union in the North 2, Group 4 final.