Let’s get right to it.
From a Monday (Nov. 7) afternoon phone conversation, here’s what first-year Columbia head coach Gary Mobley thinks about his Cougars making the North 2, Group 5 playoffs as the eighth seed and with a record of 1-8 overall, 1-7 at the cutoff.
“From a coaches’ perspective I’m happy for my team,” Mobley said. “My kids will get a taste of the playoffs.
“However, I do not believe that teams below .500 should make it. I would say no to that.”
If one of the rules was still that teams had to have a record of at least .500 at the cutoff to qualify, then seventh-seeded Bayonne (3-5) and eighth-seeded Columbia (1-7) would not have made it. Fifth-seeded Elizabeth (4-4 at the cutoff) would have, thus it would be a seven-team field this year including Linden (4-4).
Linden finished one power point – 67-66 – below Columbia and concluded as the No. 9 team in the section. The Tigers will host J.P. Stevens of Edison Thursday night at 7 in a N2, G5 Regional Crossover game, which I’m guessing the NJSIAA thought of Regional Crossover as a fancier way of labeling what had previously been called a consolation contest.
It still won’t be any consolation to a Linden team that won three straight to get to 4-4. In 2010 Linden was the first team to not qualify in North 2, Group 4 with a 6-2 record at the cutoff. In 2012, the first year teams were allowed to make it under .500, Linden made it as the seventh seed in N2, G4 with just a 2-6 record at the cutoff, but did not make it ahead of a team that didn’t make it with a better record.
“It is what it is,” second-year Linden head coach Al Chiola said. “We can only control what we can control.”
Ironically, if you will, Linden and Columbia were two of four teams at a quad scrimmage at Linden back in August. Montclair and Colonia were the others, both of them also making the playoffs in their sections.
Back to Mobley.
“I don’t make the rules,” Mobley said. “It seems to me this wasn’t talked about in years past up until this point.
“It’s not like we went out and scheduled Seton Hall Prep to gain more power points. Columbia has been playing Seton Hall Prep for years. Seton Hall Prep is always on Columbia’s schedule.”
Beginning this year, extra power points were awarded to teams who play parochial schools who are members of new North Jersey Super Football Conference.
“We’re just playing by the rules,” Mobley continued. “I’m just happy that they fell in our favor. I’m ecstatic that my players will have a chance to play a playoff game for a program that does not have much of a playoff history.”
This is only the fifth year that Columbia qualified for the playoffs, including the second straight season in North 2, Group 5. The Cougars were defeated at eventual first-time N2, G5 champion Westfield 49-7 in last year’s first round.
Columbia’s all-to-brief playoff record is 0-4.
“The rules for the 2016 season made it possible, I guess, for a team to make it over a team that has a better record,” Mobley said. “I grew up in an era where only four teams made it and there were no consolations.”
Mobley is a 1986 Union graduate who starred on 11-0 N2, G4 state championship Union teams his junior and senior seasons of 1984 and 1985 before he went on to play collegiately at Temple.
During Mobley’s highly-successful 11-season tenure as head coach at Rahway, his 2009 team – one year after Rahway reached the 2008 North 2, Group 3 state championship game – did not have enough power points to qualify in Central Jersey, Group 2 at 5-3. That Indians team went on to finish 7-3, winning their final six.
“This is a sign of the times,” Mobley said. “The way I grew up it does look shady that a team under .500 makes it.
“We scrimmaged at Linden. I know a lot of those guys on the staff. I worked with (defensive coordinator) Anthony Reinoso at Rahway.
“I know that Linden is hurting and has angst.
“I’m not disparaging Linden at all, but if they’re going to let us in, then we’re going in.”
Columbia’s fifth-ever playoff game will be at Bridgewater-Raritan Friday night at 7. The Panthers, seeded No. 1 in the section for the second straight season, have defeated eight of nine foes by double digits. Columbia has been outscored by nine opponents by a whopping 212 margin, including Friday night’s 42-0 home loss to Montclair.
Columbia’s third-ever playoff game was against BR in 2010, a 27-7 home loss to the Panthers in the first round of the North 2, Group 4 playoffs that season.
“Bridgewater-Raritan is well-coached and hungry,” Mobley said. “Believe me, I know what the deal is.
“I still think my kids can still learn from this and grow from it.”
COLUMBIA COUGARS PLAYOFF HISTORY (0-4):
2015: North 2, Group 5
2-Westfield 49, 7-Columbia 7 – at Westfield
Columbia head coach: John Power, finished 5-5
2010: North 2, Group 4
5-Bridgewater-Raritan 27, 4-Columbia 7 – at Columbia
Columbia head coach: Dave Curtin, finished 9-1
2009: North 2, Group 4
3-Westfield 41, 6-Columbia 6 – at Westfield
Columbia head coach: Dave Curtin, finished 8-2
1982: North 2, Group 4
1-Montclair 7, 4-Columbia 3 – at Montclair
Columbia head coach: Dan Brodhead
2016 NORTH 2, GROUP 5 PLAYOFFS
4-East Orange Campus (5-3)
Friday, Nov. 11
8-Columbia at 1-Bridgewater-Raritan, 7 p.m.
5-Elizabeth at 4-East Orange Campus, 7 p.m.
6-Union at 3-Ridge, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12
7-Bayonne at 2-Westfield, 1 p.m.