It’s that time of year again where High School Football takes on a different air as all the hard work pays off and schools vie for the coveted state championships. Leading the way are three neighborhood rivals, two surging teams at the right time, a once counted-out competitor and a few teams making noise despite their overall records.
The 2018 NJSIAA Football Playoffs will kick off Friday evening at 7 p.m. at a Football Stadium near you. Below are the area schools that will be in the playoffs this year thanks to a new playoff system implemented for this season. .
North 1 Group 5
With a 14-6 overtime win over Barringer this past weekend, West Orange gets into the playoffs after being counted out when they lost key games to Livingston, East Orange and Passaic Tech. They will look for a repeat of Week 0 when they shocked Montclair 26-19. Montclair has struggled this season due to injuries to key players all the while winning a close game to East Orange and losing a close game to Seton Hall Prep while hanging a combined score 102-14 on Bloomfield and Livingston. The Mounties will seek payback against the Mountaineers when they meet at Montclair’s Woodman Field this Saturday at 1 p.m.
North 2, Group 5
This section will prove to be the most highly competitive sectional play in over 10 years where all eight teams have won at least one state title during that period and has made multiple appearances in the playoffs, all garnering top positions throughout the tournament. East Orange will take on Ridge in matchup that was building up since the beginning of the season after they dismantled Watchung Hills in the Week 0 extravaganza. Ridge is coming off a big win over Linden this past weekend to solidify their fourth seeding in the Mid State 38 Delaware/Watchung Division Finale.
Meanwhile Union will host Elizabeth Friday evening at 7 p.m. This game is a rematch of Week 1 where the Minutemen broke two late touchdowns to stay ahead of the Farmers. Union will look to get this game going and foil the Minutemen’s march to the championship.
North 2, Group 4
Irvington is riding a four-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents by a combined schedule of 137-47 which included a 34-21 statement win against N1, G5 top-seeded Montclair this past weekend. The Blue Knights will play a dangerous West Morris Wolfpack squad which only seems to get better as the season progresses. Irvington set the tone with a win against Orange and Virginia Tech-bound Naquee Hawkins. They will look to do something that no previous Irvington team has yet to do, win a title. Irvington has been to the playoffs a total of 13 times and has come close to the title once.
North 2, Group 2
The Newark Central Blue Devils will have to face NJIC champion Rutherford High School for the first round Friday evening at 7 p.m. Central will have their hands full with a methodical Rutherford squad, but Central will need to rely on its quick defense and explosive rushing attack to keep the game close.
North 2, Group 1
Three Newark schools will vie for this sectional championship where the bragging rights and another state title will look to remain in Malcolm X. Shabazz’s hands since they defeated backyard rival Weequahic twice in the regular season and the 2017 state championship respectively. The Bulldogs were riding a 17-0 winning streak before their 22-19 defeat to Cedar Grove. Cedar Grove did the same thing to Weequahic last season in proving that whoever comes to play them with a winning streak, they will be the first to break it. Shabazz will host Bound Brook Friday evening at 7 p.m. at Shabazz Stadium.
Cedar Grove will have to get past Head Coach Marion Bell’s West Side Roughriders to get another crack at Shabazz. But West Side is also looking at this matchup as well after the first meeting didn’t end in their favor against the Bulldogs. It’s going to come down to who will want more will set up the showdown in the November 9 semifinals.
The Weequahic Indians will host Hoboken for the second time in two weeks this Friday evening where the Indians pulled out a 13-0 victory over the Red Wings. Hoboken is looking to find their way to the promise land after missing the mark two years in a row at the hands of both Shabazz and Weequahic.
Central Group 2
Coming out of the Central Group 2 playoffs will prove to be a little tricky. With perennial powers like Shore, Delaware Valley, Cinnaminson, Manasquan, Bernards, and South River in the mix, you would think there will be no chance for the likes of Lincoln out Jersey City and Hillside. These two will look to mix it up in the semifinals providing they can hold off South River and Bernards. The Comets have been very quiet about their sudden rise, which gives them the silent advantage because all their opponents have underestimated them or overlooked them in which they have made it known that they are here to stay as the top seed. Hillside has reached the promise land 2 out of 3 times from all 9 playoff appearances prior to 2018. Hillside will play South River on Saturday November 3, at 1 p.m.
Lincoln will look to put their power offense to the test against a rugged Bernards squad that only gave up one game to top-seeded Hillside while barely escaping Delaware Valley and South River by a combined 5 points. Lincoln’s tough ground attack will keep Bernards guessing but Lincoln will also have to figure out the Mountaineers’ aerial assault in order to keep the game close.