More local football teams will have an opportunity to play in the high school football playoffs if the NJSIAA Executive Committee approves an expansion proposal at its meeting today.
In early April the committee approved on first reading a proposal submitted by Northern Highlands High School of Bergen County to create a Group V in each of the four public school sections. Currently, there are four groups in each of the state’s sections: North Jersey Section 1, North Jersey Section 2, Central Jersey and South Jersey.
NJSIAA officials say the proposal would create more opportunities for the players and the teams, while some point out that it also would increase playoff ticket revenue for the organization, which has come under fire in recent years for its ticket prices and past spending practices.
The addition of a fifth group in each section would reduce the groups to 15 teams apiece from the current 19.
It could make a difference for teams like Brick, which was 4-4 last year. Under the proposed groups, the Dragons, who played in Central Jersey Group III last fall, would become a Group IV school and based on a rough estimation of the power points, would have qualified for the playoffs under that classification.
Toms River North, which faced a situation where it had to win and hope for other teams to lose in the final week of qualifying, might have found itself in a better spot under the Group V alignment.
The biggest impact for local teams will be for those who played in Shore Conference Class B South last fall. The proposed alignment would move Lacey and Toms River South into South Jersey Group IV while leaving Central and Manchester in South Jersey Group III, where they would be joined by Point Boro, which would move up from South Jersey Group II. Barnegat would be the lone Shore Conference team in South Jersey Group II, and most of its potential playoff opponents are in the southwestern portion of the state – including the Bengals’ nemesis, West Deptford.
The proposed groupings:
GROUP V: Brick Memorial; East Brunswick; Freehold Township; Hillsborough; Howell; Hunterdon Central; Jackson Memorial; Manalapan; Marlboro; Montgomery; North Brunswick; Old Bridge; Sayreville; South Brunswick; Trenton.
GROUP IV: Brick Township; Colts Neck; Freehold; Hamilton East; Hightstown; Jackson Liberty; Middletown North; Middletown South; Monroe; Neptune; Pennsauken; Princeton; Wall; West Windsor-Plainsboro North; West Windsor-Plainsboro South.
GROUP III: Allentown; Ewing; Hamilton North; Hamilton West; Holmdel; Hopewell Valley; Lakewood; Long Branch; Manasquan; Matawan; Monmouth; Northern Burlington; Ocean; Raritan.
GROUP II: Bernards; Roselle; Delaware Valley; Hillside; A.L. Johnson; Keyport; Lincoln; Middlesex; North Plainfield; Red Bank; Rumson-Fair Haven; Shore; Snyder; Spotswood; Weequahic.
GROUP I: Asbury Park; Burlington City; Florence; Haddon Township; Highland Park; Keansburg; Manville; Maple Shade; Metuchen; New Egypt; Palmyra; Point Beach; Riverside; South Hunterdon, South River.
GROUP V: Absegami; Atlantic City; Cherokee; Cherry Hill East; Eastern; Egg Harbor Township; Lenape; Millville; Rancocas Valley; Southern; Toms River East; Toms River North; Vineland; Washington Township; Williamstown.
GROUP IV: Cherry Hill West; Clearview; Cumberland; Hammonton; Kingsway; Lacey; Mainland; Moorestown; Oakcrest; Seneca; Shawnee; Timber Creek; Toms River South; Triton; Winslow Township.
GROUP III: Bridgeton; Burlington Township; Camden; Central; Delsea; Deptford; Highland; Lower Cape May; Manchester; Ocean City; Pemberton; Pinelands; Point Boro; Sterling; Woodrow Wilson.
GROUP II: Barnegat; Bordentown; Buena; Cinnaminson; Collingswood; Delran; Haddon Heights; Haddonfield; Middle Township; Overbrook; Pleasantville; Robbinsville; West Deptford; Willingboro; Woodstown.
GROUP I: Audubon; Cedar Creek; Clayton; Gateway; Glassboro; Gloucester City; Lindenwold; Paulsboro; Penns Grove; Pennsville; Pitman; Salem; Schalick; Wildwood; Woodbury.