PISCATAWAY, NJ -- Nothing ever comes easy or is simple when it comes to New Jersey high school football.
A brand-new system for team classifications and the playoffs will be implemented starting in the upcoming 2018 season. Should a team win a sectional title, they will take it one game further and play in what is being called a “bowl game”, much like in college football.
But let’s take a step back.
Public schools in the Garden State were split into two “super sections” - North and South - and then placed in one of five groups based on enrollment size, which should be familiar to most already.
The Piscataway High School varsity football team is categorized in North 5, along with Bayonne, Bergen Tech, Bloomfield, Bridgewater-Raritan, Clifton, Columbia, Dickinson, East Orange, Newark East Side, Paterson Eastside, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Livingston, Memorial, Montclair, Morristown, North Bergen, Passaic Tech, Passaic, Paterson Kennedy, Perth Amboy, Plainfield, Ridge, Ridgewood, J.P. Stevens, Union City, Union, Watchung Hills, West Orange, and Westfield.
The top 16 teams in each grouped super section which make the playoffs will then be divided again based on geography into 8-team sections (North 1 and North 2/Central and South). The sectional champions will then meet on the gridiron in the bowl games (North 1 vs. North 2 and Central vs. South).
Should the Chiefs make the playoffs, they will likely be put into North 2. Piscataway fell in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 semifinals in 2017 and quarterfinals in 2015 with a championship in Central Jersey, Group 5 sandwiched in between in 2016. Other strong teams in the North 5 as we’ll call it are Westfield (three straight N2G5 titles), Bridgewater-Raritan (three straight N2G5 title game appearances), Montclair (won N1G5 crown in 2017), Ridgewood, Passaic Tech, Union, and Watchung Hills.
So how will the teams make the playoffs and be seeded you ask?
The NJSIAA will be using the United Power Ranking System (UPR), which weighs both Power Points (40 percent) and Born Power Index (60 percent). The idea of the combination is the fact that it is said that this ranking system will be fairer. In the past, good teams have missed the playoffs for various reasons like winning versus smaller schools which doesn’t add a ton of power points to their tally, and bad teams have gotten into the postseason by just flat out playing bigger and better teams which awards them a high number of points despite losing.
The BPI, which was created by William Born, is in its 57th year of existence. It tracks high school football teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and college football teams all across the country. It also tracks high school basketball teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
According to the NJSIAA, “The Born Power Index is an ever-changing mathematical evaluation of a team's relative strength against similar competition. The index includes a blowout factor that rewards teams for doing well against stronger opponents and discourages running up the score against weaker teams.”
The Power Points calculations and breakdown can be found here.
“I understand the concept behind trying to be fair to all teams, but the new system is confusing,” Piscataway coach Dan Higgins recently told TAPinto Piscataway.
In addition to the postseason changes, the Chiefs’ regular season schedule has been tweaked as well since TAPinto Piscataway last went into detail on it back in January.
Starting this upcoming season, the Greater Middlesex Conference will feature new divisional alignments (posted below), and in turn, new opponents. The realignment is based on student enrollment in the schools. In addition, no longer does the GMC have an agreement with the Mid-State 38 Conference. Every team from each league will play at least one crossover game between the respective conferences each season.
In Piscataway’s case, this year, it gets two Mid-State 38 teams making the Chiefs’ entire schedule one of the most challenging of any team in the Garden State, especially for a public-school program.
Not including its annual Thanksgiving Day game with Franklin Township, which finished 3-7 last year, Piscataway (8-3) will face five foes that each concluded 2017 with a winning record, including four teams that played in a sectional championship game, and two that came out victorious.
Using last year’s results, Chiefs’ opponents in 2018 finished with a combined .523 percent winning percentage. They will also play three teams that they didn’t go up against last year. Technically four if you don’t count their semifinal matchup in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 playoffs. The Chiefs will have four home games and five away games.
In 2018, Piscataway kicks off the season at Dominic R. Ciardi field with three straight home games against East Brunswick, South Brunswick, and J.P. Stevens. The Chiefs will then hit the road for two games versus Old Bridge and Perth Amboy before returning home to play Bridgewater-Raritan. Piscataway ends the regular season with two away contests against rival Sayreville and Westfield. It will also matchup against Franklin, away, on Thanksgiving.
On paper, this slate is one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- Piscataway has ever had. In 2017, Piscataway beat East Brunswick, 35-0, beat South Brunswick, 28-14, lost to Old Bridge near the end again, 24-20, fell to Bridgewater in the sectional semifinals, 27-6, and edged Sayreville, 12-6. Bridgewater-Raritan has been defeated in the last three N2G5 title games by Westfield, which will carry a state-best 37-game winning streak into 2018. Sayreville lost to North Hunterdon in the N2G4 championship game, and South Brunswick won the Central Jersey, Group 5 crown in comeback fashion over Manalapan.
Piscataway last played J.P. Stevens in 2015, Perth Amboy in 2008, and Westfield in the 2007 postseason.
“It’s awesome. It’s one of most competitive schedules that I’ve ever had. I’m really excited about it,” Higgins said this past winter. “I know that it’s a challenge, but for me, I like our team to be challenged. Next year especially, we’ll be having a whole bunch of guys coming back. I expect us to be competitive and the only way to maximize our potential is to compete against really good teams. We got them. It’s going to be a really tough but rewarding year. I’m truly excited about it.
“If you don’t get your nose bloodied during the regular season, you’re not going to be ready. You’ve got to get knocked down. You’ve got to get pushed to the limit. Unless that happens, you can just think you’re good, but then you get to the playoffs and have to face a team that’s been through it all and is ready. We want that. It’s not going to be easy and we know that, but that’s what makes champions. Challenge makes champions so we’re excited about it.”
The turf field at PHS is being re-done, but it should be ready to go by the time the 2018 campaign kicks off.
Piscataway High School varsity football updated 2018 schedule:
Sept. 7 -- home -- 7 p.m. -- East Brunswick
Sept. 14 -- home -- 7 p.m. -- South Brunswick
Sept. 21 -- home -- 7 p.m. -- J.P. Stevens
Sept. 28 -- away -- 7 p.m. -- Old Bridge
Oct. 5 -- away -- 7 p.m. -- Perth Amboy
Oct. 12 -- home -- 7 p.m. -- Bridgewater-Raritan
Oct. 19 -- away -- 7 p.m. -- Sayreville
Oct. 27 (Sat.) -- away -- 1 p.m. -- Westfield
Nov. 22 -- away -- 10:30 a.m. -- Franklin
Red Division: Piscataway, South Brunswick, Old Bridge, East Brunswick, J.P. Stevens, and Perth Amboy
White Division: Sayreville, Woodbridge, North Brunswick, Edison, Monroe, and New Brunswick
Blue Division: South Plainfield Carteret, Colonia, J.F. Kennedy, and St. Joseph (Metuchen)
Gold Division: Middlesex, South River, Bishop Ahr, Dunellen, Highland Park, Metuchen, and Spotswood
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