UNION COUNTY — The high school football state playoffs in New Jersey can be a harsh reality to deal with, especially when the scoreboard doesn’t work in a team’s favor.
Of the 11 Union County football playing schools that qualified, eight were defeated last weekend, with their seasons completed before Halloween.
Those who lost were Governor Livingston, Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Cranford, Arthur L. Johnson, Plainfield and New Providence high schools.
Linden had its best finish in five years, coming in at 6-3-1. However, Cranford finished with three straight losses for a final record of 4-5. This is the first year the Cougars concluded less than .500 since 2009. All three teams Cranford just lost to were solid, including Linden, North Brunswick Township and West Essex high schools.
Governor Livingston made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and won six games, finishing 6-4, for the first time since 2018.
Plainfield closed at 6-3. The Cardinals produced their first winning season since 2005, made the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2001.
Hillside finished 6-3, won another division title, capturing one for the sixth straight season and also posted a seventh straight winning season.
Arthur L. Johnson went 6-3 for the second year in a row and made the playoffs for the second straight season, both times falling at Pleasantville.
New Providence finished 4-6, closing with three straight defeats, while Rahway came in at 3-7, dropping its final six.
Union High School went to fourth-seeded Ridgewood High School on Friday night, Oct. 27, and came away with a 35-30 triumph to snap a four-game losing streak and advance to the North 1, Group 5 semifinals. The Farmers improved to 5-5 and won their first road playoff game since 2016.
Westfield High School hosted Clifton High School on Saturday, Oct. 28, and pitched a second straight shutout, winning 36-0 at Gary Kehler Football Stadium in a North 2, Group 5 first-rounder. The Blue Devils won their second straight and were victorious for the third time in four games to go better than the .500 mark at 5-4.
Summit High School, favored to win North 2, Group 3 as the top seed, easily dispatched Governor Livingston, 42-14, on Saturday, Oct. 28, in its first-round clash. The Hilltoppers are now 7-2 and 7-0 against public school competition.
Westfield last won a sectional state championship when the Blue Devils three-peated in North 2, Group 5 in 2017. They will next play at top-seeded Phillipsburg High School on Friday night, Nov. 3.
Summit last won a sectional state title in 2018, when the Hilltoppers captured North 2, Group 3 for the fifth time overall and for the first time since 2013. They will host fourth-seeded West Essex on Saturday, Nov. 4, at Tatlock Field.
Union last won a sectional state crown in 2019, when the Farmers won North 2, Group 5 for the first time for the program’s first state championship since 1993. They will play at top-seeded and undefeated Passaic County Technical Institute, 10-0, on Friday, Nov. 3.
The sectional state championship games are scheduled for the weekend of Friday, Nov. 10, and Saturday, Nov. 11.
This weekend’s NJSIAA sectional semifinals
involving Union County schools
Union Farmers in North 1, Group 5
• 5-Union (5-5) at 1-Passaic Tech (10-0), Friday, Nov. 3
• 3-Montclair (7-3) at 2-Watchung Hills (8-2), Friday, Nov. 3
Defending champion: Passaic Tech
Westfield Blue Devils in North 2, Group 5
• 4-Westfield (5-4) at 1-Phillipsburg (8-1), Friday, Nov. 3
• 6-West Orange (5-4) at 2-Union City (8-1), Friday, Nov. 3
Defending champion: West Orange
Summit Hilltoppers in North 2, Group 3
• 4-West Essex (7-3) at 1-Summit (7-2), Saturday, Nov. 4
• 7-Montville (7-3) at 6-Passaic Valley (6-2), Friday, Nov. 3
Defending champion: West Morris