UNION COUNTY, NJ — The final weekend.
This is it – the final opportunity to make a lasting impression on the first goal most teams have, which is making the playoffs in their sections.
This is not only Week Eight but it’s also called the playoff-cutoff date weekend as it’s the final weekend before the playoffs commence around the state on Friday, Oct. 27.
Union County teams that are securely in the playoffs include Union and Plainfield high schools in North, Group 5; Linden High School out of North, Group 4; Summit, Cranford and Hillside high schools out of North, Group 3; and New Providence and Arthur L. Johnson high schools out of South, Group 2.
Westfield High School is presently 13th out of North, Group 5 and still may make it even if the Blue Devils do not win this weekend. Governor Livingston High School is 16th and in the final slot out of North, Group 3.
Rahway High School is 15th out of North, Group 4; Abraham Clark High School, Roselle is 19th out of South, Group 2; and David Brearley High School is 19th out of North, Group 1. They may all get in or get just nudged out. We shall see.
There are no common games, so the 17-game breakdown of Union County football playing schools for Week Eight goes one game on Thursday, Oct. 19; 11 games on Friday, Oct. 20; and five more on Saturday, Oct. 21.
The website www.gridironnewjersey.com should have the playoff brackets filled out by Saturday night, Oct. 21.
Thursday, Oct. 19
• David Brearley High School (3-4) at Dunellen High School (4-3), 6 p.m.: David Brearley will seek to even its record against a Dunellen team that just gave up 52 points at Roselle Park High School in a 52-24 setback. The Bears will need to get this victory to have a chance at making the playoffs out of North, Group 1 once again.
Friday, Oct. 20
• Watchung Hills Regional High School (6-2) at Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth (1-7), 6 p.m.: Both teams are coming off close losses, Elizabeth at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional high School, 23-19, and Watchung Hills at home to St. Joseph High School, Metuchen, 26-21. Watchung Hills is headed to the playoffs out of North, Group 5, while Elizabeth will have the opportunity to play in the North, Group 5 Regional Invitational Tournament.
• Montgomery High School (8-0) at Linden High School (6-2), 6 p.m.: Both teams qualified for the North, Group 4 playoffs, so this is a big game for playoff positioning in whichever Group 4 sections they will be put in — either North 1 or North 2. Linden was last in the playoffs in 2021 and then, last year, won the North, Group 4 RIT championship.
• Rahway High School (3-5) at Colonia High School (4-4), 6 p.m.: Both teams are done with their eight qualifying games toward making the playoffs out of North, Group 4. They can only gain residual points this weekend from teams they have beaten. It will be close to see if either team makes it.
• Union High School (4-4) at Ridge High School (6-1), 7 p.m.: The Farmers hit a bit of a bump with three straight losses. However, Union qualified for the playoffs out of North, Group 5 once again. Ridge, which qualified out of North, Group 4, has won five straight since its only loss, a 21-14 decision at Phillipsburg High School on Friday, Sept. 8.
• Westfield High School (3-4) at Hillsborough High School (7-1), 7 p.m.: Westfield is attempting to make the playoffs out of North, Group 5 again, while Hillsborough, winners of four straight, have qualified out of South, Group 5. The Blue Devils have lost two of their last three, including the 34-15 setback on Saturday, Oct. 14, at home to Ridge High School.
• John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, Iselin (0-7) at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (1-7), 7 p.m.: The host Raiders will seek to snap a seven-game losing streak against an Iselin Kennedy team that has only scored 34 points and has been shut out twice.
• Hillside High School (5-2) at Carteret High School (7-1), 7 p.m.: Hillside is headed back to the playoffs out of North, Group 3, while Carteret made it out of South, Group 3. This is Hillside’s last playoff qualifying game, so a win against Carteret will greatly boost the Comets’ playoff positioning.
• Cranford High School (4-3) at North Brunswick Township High School (7-0), 7 p.m.: Although Cranford lost at home to Linden High School, 16-13, on Friday, Oct. 13, the Cougars will still make the playoffs out of North, Group 3, should they not beat undefeated North Brunswick. A win against North Brunswick will mean a much higher playoff seed. Cranford will make the playoffs for the 12th straight season. The Cougars have made it every year since 2011, with no playoffs in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cranford’s streak of finishing better than .500 every year since 2010 is in jeopardy, especially if the Cougars do not win this weekend.
• South River High School (0-7) at Arthur L. Johnson High School (5-2), 7 p.m.: Arthur L. Johnson made a big leap into a playoff position in South, Group 2, after winning at 7-0 Spotswood High School, 48-0, on Saturday, Oct. 14. Another win against South River will cement a second straight season of being playoff-bound.
• New Providence High School (4-4) at Middlesex High School (6-1), 7 p.m.: New Providence has made the grade again out of South, Group 2. Middlesex has won four in a row, with its only loss being a 12-7 setback at home to South Hunterdon Regional High School on Friday, Sept. 15. Middlesex qualified for the playoffs out of South, Group 1.
• Belvidere High School (2-6) at Abraham Clark High School, Roselle (3-4), 7 p.m.: For the second straight season, Roselle will seek to even its record at 4-4 with a game against Belvidere. Last year, the Rams went all the way to Warren County and came away with a 35-0 triumph. Roselle will need to beat Belvidere again to have any hope of sneaking into the playoffs out of South, Group 2.
Saturday, Oct. 21
• Roselle Park High School (3-4) at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (1-6), noon: Although the Panthers will not make the playoffs out of North, Group 1, they have a great opportunity to even their record this weekend, after producing a 52-24 home win against Dunellen. This game will be played at Newark’s Schools Stadium.
• Franklin High School (2-6) at Plainfield High School (5-2), 1 p.m.: Plainfield has made the playoffs out of North, Group 5 for the first time and for the first time overall since 2008, when the Cardinals were defeated at Piscataway, 38-0, in first-round North 2, Group 4 action. Plainfield won at Franklin, 40-26, a year ago.
• Summit High School (6-1) at St. Joseph High School, Metuchen (5-2), 1 p.m.: Summit’s offense, already averaging 38 points, exploded for 26 more points in its 64-35 triumph at Colonia High School on Friday night, Oct. 13. The Hilltopppers are in line to get one of the two top playoff seeds out of North, Group 3. Summit is seeking to win a sectional state championship for the first time since last capturing North 2, Group 3 in 2018.
• Bernards High School (8-0) at Governor Livingston High School (6-2), 1 p.m.: Bernards will be a very high seed out of North, Group 2. Right now, Governor Livingston is in the playoffs out of North, Group 3, but barely — in the 16th and final spot. We’ll see what happens after this weekend, if that holds up for the much-improved Highlanders.
• Jonathan Dayton High School (1-6) at Metuchen High School (2-5), 2 p.m.: Not much offensive productivity for the Bulldogs this season, as they have scored more than seven points just twice. Metuchen has had its offensive struggles as well, scoring more than seven points only three times.