By Brian Deakyne
In Non-Public, Group 3:
(4) Red Bank Catholic vs. (5) Immaculata
7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15, at Count Basie Field, Red Bank
The Outlook: Red Bank Catholic High School (8-0) will hit its first true test in the opening round of the sectional playoffs as it hosts Immaculata High School (6-3). The Caseys trumped through the regular season, outscoring Shore Conference opponents, 385-43. Red Bank Catholic recorded three shutouts and scored at least 35 points in all eight regular season games.
Playoff History: Despite Red Bank Catholic’s storied and celebrated regular season success, it hasn’t transferred over to playoff wins. The Caseys have lost in the semifinal round of the Non-Public, Group 3 playoffs each of the last two seasons, and have compiled a 7-19 playoff record all-time.
Coming for St. Joe’s: If Red Bank Catholic moves past Immaculata on Friday night, it will have another shot at top-seeded St. Joseph-Montvale. Last season, Red Bank Catholic was dismantled by the Green Knights, 42-7, in the semifinal.
In Central Jersey, Group 2:
Rumson-Fair Haven vs. (8) Bordentown
7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15, at Rumson at Two River Times Field
The Outlook: Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School has put together one of the best seasons to date in school history under first-year head coach Bryan Batchler, but the job is not done. After finishing the regular season unblemished at 8-0, the Bulldogs have earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs as they look to notch their second state title in school history.
Playoff History: Over the past four seasons, Rumson has staked its claim as a perennial good football team, but it has come with ups and downs. After winning its only state title in school history in 2010 in a 13-7 win over Matawan Regional High School, the Bulldogs have been a game or two away from winning it all again. In 2011, Rumson fell to Matawan, 3-0 in the state championship game. Last year, the favored Bulldogs were upset, at home, in the opening round of the playoffs by Weequahic High School.
Rematch With Weequahic: If all goes according to plan for Batchler and Rumson, it would meet up with second-seeded Weequahic in the state championship game. First, though, the Bulldogs would have to triumph through Bordentown High School (4-4) and the winner over fourth-seeded Rahway and fifth-seeded Spotswood.
In Central Jersey, Group 4:
(4) Middletown South vs. (5) Burlington Township
7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15, at Middletown South
The Outlook: What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Middletown High School South. With back-to-back losses to Red Bank Catholic and Colts Neck High School to end the regular season, the Eagles enter the playoffs with a different feeling than most years. Middletown South (4-4) is without a signature win and all four losses have come against playoff teams. The Eagles will look to right its ship with a home state playoff game against Burlington Township High School (5-3).
Playoff History: There are few programs that have touted more playoff success than Middletown South. With nine state sectional titles in school history, the Eagles are second only to Manasquan High School within the Shore Conference, but it’s been some time since they last won a championship. Middletown South reached the final last year, when they lost to Sayreville High School. Middletown South’s last state championship came in 2006 in a 38-0 with over Moorestown High School.
Shore is Stacked: The Central Jersey, Group 4 section is stacked with Shore Conference teams this year. If Middletown South wins, it will likely face top-seeded Brick Township High School, which South beat, 28-7, to open the season. Further down the bracket, No. 3 Colts Neck could line up to face Middletown South in the championship game. Colts Neck beat Middletown South, 27-21 in overtime on Nov. 8.
(7) Middletown North at (2) Nottingham
1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16 at Nottingham High School
The Outlook: In a wild ending to the season, Middletown North qualified for the state playoffs under first-year coach Steve Bush for the first time in four years. The Lions (3-5) opened the season with four straight losses, but won three of their last four games to make the playoffs.
Playoff History: It’s been a long time since Middletown North has been recognized as a football power, but making the playoffs is a step in the right direction. Middletown North has won three state titles in its history, but hasn’t won a title since 1996. The last Lions’ playoff win came in 2000, when it beat Woodbridge High School.
Odds Against North: Normally, it would be far-fetched to say that Middletown North has any real shot in this section, but after the ending to the regular season, it’s up for grabs. The Lions pulled off divisional wins over Marlboro High School, Howell High School, and Freehold Township High School, so why not Nottingham High School?