Another call for state football playoffs

Posted: November 10, 2011

Now that the state tournament finally is here, there's just one problem.

It will be gone too soon.

Oh, it will stretch from now until the first weekend of December, and it will be filled with great games and surprising twists, with unlikely heroes and star-kissed teams. It will be exciting and unpredictable and unforgettable.

Which is just another reason why the public-school playoffs should keep going all the way to state championship games.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: It's ridiculous that of all the high school athletes in New Jersey, football players in public schools are the only ones - the only ones - who don't get to compete for state titles.

The issue is worth discussing again just as the sectional tournaments are starting Friday in Groups 4, 3, 2 and 1, as well as those lucky dogs in the Non-Public groups - who get to compete for state titles just as field hockey players and swimmers and baseball players do.

We're all excited about the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, where the top three seeds - Pennsauken, Millville, and Williamstown - are rising powers that haven't played in December in a long time, if ever.

That Atlantic City-at-Pennsauken opener on Saturday has a chance to be a great game, as it features the best two receiving corps in South Jersey. Can Rancocas Valley make an impact in its long-delayed return to South Jersey? Can Triton surprise?

The other tournaments should be great, too. Timber Creek and Hammonton look headed for a classic showdown in Group 3, although Woodrow Wilson has other ideas.

Can Haddonfield put the finishing touches on a dream season with its second consecutive Group 2 title? Or can West Deptford turn the tables on its longtime rival?

And good luck handicapping Group 1, where the absence of a small-school super team - like some of those vintage Glassboro, Paulsboro and Woodbury teams in recent seasons - is likely to create a sensationally scrambled tournament.

But what if all that good stuff was just a prelude to two more weeks of the best public-school football in the state? What if we kept going through state semifinals to state finals - as every other red-blooded American state in this here union does?

Who wouldn't want to see Pennsauken (7-1) face Central Jersey's South Brunswick (8-0)? Or Timber Creek (8-0) get a shot at state power Wayne Hills (8-0)? Or Haddonfield (8-0) meet Manasquan (8-0) and then maybe West Essex (8-0)?

It happens in every other sport. It ought to happen in public football.

Yeah, yeah, there are issues to be resolved - the length of the season, starting dates, Thanksgiving games. But every other state makes it work. It's not the national debt crisis. We ought to be able to figure it out.

The NJSIAA will ask its members to vote on Dec. 5 to change the wording in the constitution to allow a plan to be created for state playoffs for public schools. If it passes - and it needs a three-quarters majority - a plan will be developed and likely presented to the general membership for another vote in December 2012.

If that second question also gets the thumbs-up - and what's so tough about two passes in football? - the first state tournament for public schools in the history of New Jersey scholastic sports could start in November 2013.

This year's tournament is finally here. It should be great.

But that one in 2013 could be that much better.


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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