UNION COUNTY, NJ — This is the weekend that puts the closure on who is in and who is out — who is in the state playoffs, and who will come up short of qualifying.
The sectional playoffs commence next week and then, after those three weekends, for the first time, public school group semifinals and finals will follow.
The United Power Rankings were updated on Sunday, Oct. 16, on gridironnewjersey.com, with just this weekend to go before playoff football is here.
Right now, the following Union County teams would be in, with schools needing to be among the top 16 teams in their group sections to qualify:
North, Group 5: No. 7 Westfield High School (5-2) and No. 14 Union High School (2-5). On the outside at the moment: No. 17 Elizabeth High School (2-5).
North, Group 4: No. 11 Rahway High School (4-3). On the outside at the moment: No. 17 Linden High School (3-4).
North, Group 3: No. 3 Hillside High School (6-1), No. 4 Cranford High School (5-2) and No. 13 Summit High School (3-4).
South, Group 2: No. 7 New Providence High School (4-4) and No. 11 Arthur L. Johnson High School (5-2). On the outside at the moment: No. 20 Abraham Clark High School (3-4).
North, Group 1: No. 5 David Brearley High School (7-0).
If this holds, then Union County will have nine teams make the playoffs: Westfield, Union, Rahway, Hillside, Cranford, Summit, New Providence, Arthur L. Johnson and David Brearley.
We shall see.
Here is a preview of Week 8 games involving all 17 Union County football-playing schools. For the first time this season, there are no common games this weekend, so we have 17 games, with 13 games on Friday, Oct. 21, and four on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Friday, Oct. 21
• Dunellen High School (2-5) at David Brearley High School (7-0), 6 p.m. David Brearley is a big favorite to conclude its regular season at 8-0, especially with senior quarterback Matt Sims returning last week under center. Dunellen is coming off a 28-14 loss at home to Roselle Park High School on Friday, Oct. 14. The Bears are headed to the playoffs, while Dunellen will have the opportunity to play a consolation game if it chooses.
• Metuchen High School (3-5) at Jonathan Dayton High School (3-4), 6 p.m. Metuchen snapped a two-game losing streak by winning at J.P. Stevens High School, 21-12, on Friday, Oct. 14. After a 3-2 start, Jonathan Dayton lost at Spotswood, 25-7, two weeks ago and at South Hunterdon Regional High School, 40-7, last week. Here’s a chance for the Bulldogs to get back to .500 and continue on with a consolation game.
• KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (1-7) at Roselle Park High School (3-4), 6 p.m. Newark Collegiate, a North, Group 2 school, has lost seven straight since opening on Friday, Aug. 26, with a 7-0 win against KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy at Newark Schools Stadium. Roselle Park has won three of four following an 0-3 start. The Panthers produced a big 28-14 win at Dunellen High School on Friday, Oct. 14. Roselle Park is in a similar predicament to Abraham Clark: It has won games lately but will probably fall short of qualifying out of North, Group 1.
• Ridge High School (5-2) at Union High School (2-5), 7 p.m. Ridge is one of the hottest teams, winners of four straight including the 31-3 domination at home of 5-1 Westfield High School on Friday, Oct. 14. Union is 2-2 in its last four, following an uncharacteristic 0-3 start. The Farmers were defeated at 6-0 Phillipsburg High School, 42-14, on Friday, Oct. 14. Union may still make the playoffs out of North, Group 5, even if it does not beat Ridge.
• Elizabeth High School – Frank J. Cicarell Academy (2-5) at Watchung Hills Regional High School (6-2), 7 p.m. These are teams going in different directions, with Elizabeth on a three-game losing streak and Watchung Hills winners of four straight. Elizabeth lost at home to Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School, 17-13, on Saturday, Oct. 15, while Watchung Hills on the same day took care of St. Joseph High School, 30-7, in Metuchen. Elizabeth will probably need to win this game to qualify in North, Group 5.
• Plainfield High School (2-5) at Franklin High School (0-7), 7 p.m. Both teams will be lining up to play consolation games next week or calling the season finished. Plainfield’s second win was its 54-28 triumph on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Hub Stine Field against visiting Monroe Township High School. The Cardinals also defeated the Falcons, 45-44, at home in the first week of November last year. Franklin is coming off a 45-13 setback on Friday, Oct. 14, at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
• Colonia High School (7-1) at Rahway High School (4-3), 7 p.m. Colonia has won its last two, including a 28-23 win at Summit High School on Saturday, Oct. 15. Colonia, in the same manner as all teams that have already played eight games, opened the last weekend in August, which was Week Zero. Rahway bounced back from losing three straight games by shutout to edge 6-1 Carteret High School, 20-19, at Rahway River Park on Friday, Oct. 14. That helped cement what should be a playoff berth for the Indians out of North, Group 4 for the first time, regardless of what they do this weekend against a very good Colonia team.
• Linden High School (3-4) at Montgomery High School (6-2), 7 p.m. Linden has lost its last two, both at home, to Summit and Cranford high schools, and will, most likely, need to win this game to qualify in North, Group 4. Montgomery is coming off a 40-14 win at Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School on Friday, Oct. 14, that halted a two-game losing streak following a 5-0 start.
• Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School (1-7) at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School (1-7), 7 p.m. Scotch Plains–Fanwood has lost seven straight, including the 40-14 home loss to Montgomery High School on Friday, Oct. 14. Kennedy won its first game last weekend, topping Voorhees High School, 21-7, at home on Friday, Oct. 14.
• North Brunswick Township High School (7-0) at Cranford High School (5-2), 7 p.m. The Raiders, a South, Group 5 school, came to Memorial Field having yielded only 41 points, with three shutouts. Last week, they blanked visiting East Brunswick High School, 26-0. This may be the best team Cranford will face this year, no disrespect to the two teams to which it lost: North Hunterdon Regional and St. Thomas Aquinas high schools, which are both 7-1. Cranford has won its last three games by shutout, which could be a school record or close to a school record, including its 31-0 triumph at Linden High School on Friday, Oct. 14. The Cougars are probably looking at getting a No. 2 or 3 seed in either North 2, Group 3 or North 1, Group 3.
• Governor Livingston High School (4-4) at Bernards High School (7-1), 7 p.m. Governor Livingston snapped a two-game slide with a big 17-7 home win against South River High School on Saturday, Oct. 15. Meanwhile, Bernards won for the sixth straight time, downing New Providence High School, 31-0, at home on Friday, Oct. 14. Although the Highlanders are much improved under first-year head coach Pete Ramiccio, it doesn’t appear that they will qualify out of North, Group 3 as they do not have enough power points in the UPR.
• Middlesex High School (4-3) at New Providence High School (4-4), 7 p.m. Middlesex is coming off a 44-6 loss at home to David Brearley High School on Thursday, Oct. 13, while New Providence was blanked at Bernards High School, 31-0, on Friday, Oct. 14. However, the Pioneers will qualify out of South, Group 2, as they are currently No. 7 in the UPR there. New Providence won two straight, beating Arthur L. Johnson and Metuchen high schools, before falling last weekend.
• Abraham Clark High School (3-4) at Belvidere High School (0-7), 7 p.m. This is the second straight winless team that Abraham Clark is facing. Despite winning the last three games, the Rams may not garner enough power points to qualify out of South, Group 2. Abraham Clark beat visiting Bound Brook High School, 47-6, at Arminio Field on Friday, Oct. 14. The Rams have outscored their last three opponents, 130-41. If they don’t qualify for the playoffs, they may schedule one consolation game before hosting Roselle Park the night before Thanksgiving.
Saturday, Oct. 22
• Carteret High School (6-2) at Hillside High School (6-1), 1 p.m. Carteret has two losses by one point, 13-12 at South Plainfield High School on Friday, Sept. 9, and 20-19 at Rahway High School on Friday, Oct. 14. The Ramblers, situated in South, Group 3, have six wins by double digits. Hillside moved up to No. 3 in the UPR in North, Group 3 after its 35-14 home win against 5-1 Delaware Valley High School on Saturday, Oct. 15. After leading 14-7 at the break, the Comets closed Delaware Valley out in the second half at John Zappulla Field by scoring three more touchdowns. With a win against Carteret, Hillside might possibly move up to No. 2 in the UPR, which would yield them a top seed in either North 2, Group 3 or North 1, Group 3. A second seed might be more likely.
• Arthur L. Johnson High School (5-2) at South River High School (2-5), 1 p.m. Arthur L. Johnson produced its third shutout, blanking Spotswood High School, 44-0, on Friday, Oct. 14, at Nolan Field in Clark. The Crusaders are presently No. 11 in the UPR in South, Group 2. They will make the playoffs but may not get a seed of the top four in either Central Jersey, Group 2 or South Jersey, Group 2, which means they would be on the road in the first round.
• Hillsborough High School (5-2) at Westfield High School (5-2), 2 p.m. Both teams, each playoff bound, lost on the road on Friday, Oct. 14. Hillsborough was beaten by Somerville High School, 35-14, and Westfield by Ridge High School, 31-0. Westfield, at No. 7 in the UPR in North, Group 5, is on the fence right now as to whether it will qualify with a high enough seed to host a first-round game in either North 2, Group 5 or North 1, Group 5.
• St. Joseph High School, Metuchen (3-4), at Summit High School (3-4), 2 p.m. St. Joseph started 3-0 and has now lost its last four, including 30-7 at home to Watchung Hills Regional High School on Saturday, Oct. 15. Summit has rebounded nicely from a rare 0-3 start. Although the Hilltoppers lost a close 28-23 decision to 6-1 Colonia High School on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Tatlock Field to snap their three-game winning streak, they are still on the right side of qualifying in North, Group 3. We’ll see how close it gets for Summit after this weekend’s final playoff-qualifying results come in.