And so it begins this weekend.  The far-from-perfect NJSIAA Football Playoffs get underway tonight and when the final game has been played on Sunday, December 8 a total of 24 high school football teams will be able to proclaim themselves as “state champions.” 

No. 4 Rumson-Fair Haven secured the No. 1 seed in Central Jersey Group II with a big 22-15 win over fellow Top 10 team Manasquan last week. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Expanded last year the playoffs include teams with losing records to fill up the eight-team brackets, including Wall and Middletown North who are among the 24 Shore Conference teams who begin the weekend with title aspirations.

That may be a stretch for the Crimson Knights and Lions but for teams like Manalapan, Ocean, Rumson, Middletown South, Colts Neck, Shore, Point Beach and Manasquan anything less than a championship will be considered a disappointment.

They would have to be considered the most serious contenders among shore teams while schools like Brick, Toms River South, Jackson and Barnegat hope to continue strong seasons with at least deep runs to a title game.

The Green Dragons are the top seed in Central Jersey Group 4 and will get a big boost tonight against West Windsor North with the return of talented quarterback Carmen Scalfani.

The team I have not yet mentioned is Red Bank Catholic, widely considered the shore’s elite football program and the #1 ranked team for as long as anyone can remember.  The Caseys have rolled over eight opponents this fall by an average score of 48-5 but they are a long shot in the stacked Non-Public Group 3 field that is headed up by St. Joseph of Montvale, among the top teams in the nation.

They would be RBC’s second round opponent but to even get to that game the Caseys need to beat Immaculata tonight at Count Basie Field and that is not expected to be a walk in the park.  The Spartans have won four straight and are coming off an upset of previously undefeated Phillipsburg.  Four of the state’s top 11 teams are in this group including Delbarton who will host Monsignor Donovan Saturday.

Toms River South girls soccer team (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

Our Shore Sports Network Sonny's Recycling Game of the Week will be in Barnegat tonight for the Bengals game with Pemberton with kickoff at 7pm on 105.7 the Hawk.

To the other sport called football: congratulations to Toms River South, a 2-1 winner over Central in the South Jersey Group 3 Girls Soccer final yesterday.  The very talented Taylor Troutman sparked the Indian effort with a goal and an assist in the second half after South fell behind 1-0.

Next up for John Crowley’s Indians is a date next Tuesday with Central Jersey champion Somerville in what should feel like a home game as they’re playing at Toms River North.