And Then There Were Nine
The pursuit of a state sectional championship is a common goal when the football season begins with summer practices in August but before long the list of teams with realistic chances begins diminishing.
The NJSIAA playoffs began last week with 23 of the 39 public schools from the shore area in action but that number has been reduced to 9 as we head into the sectional semifinals. That group includes teams like Toms River North, Middletown South, Wall, Jackson Memorial, Rumson and Long Branch who expected to be here as well as Toms River East, Lacey and Holmdel who have likely exceeded most expectations.
The nine will certainly be reduced because of two head-to-head matchups featuring shore teams. Lacey visits Wall in a Central Jersey Group 3 contest that is the Jersey Mike’s Game of the Week on the Shore Sports Network while Toms River East takes the short trip to Jackson Memorial with a berth in the Central Jersey Group 4 finals on the line.
The Raiders and Jaguars were longtime rivals in the old Class A South division and Jackson has won the last 7 meetings and rates the role of favorite again tonight when they meet at Munley Field. Jackson comes in riding a six-game winning streak while the Raiders look to continue their resurgence which has led to a 9-1 record and the Freedom Division title.
Back to the Lacey at Wall game which will be streamed live on shoresportsnetwork.com. The 7-3 Lions like the fact that they’ve been overlooked most of this season and they’ll take that little chip on their shoulder into tonight’s matchup against the #1 ranked Crimson Knights who are the only undefeated team in the shore.
Also tonight Toms River North looks to advance to a sectional final for the third time in five years as the explosive Mariners host Kingsway.
The Non-Public Playoffs are just beginning and in Group 3 four of the six teams are from the Shore Conference. Two of them face off in Toms River tonight with once-beaten Donovan Catholic hosting St. John Vianney. The winner will face top-seed DePaul in the semifinals next weekend. In the bottom part of that bracket Mater Dei Prep hosts Pope John Saturday with the winner to take on Red Bank Catholic next weekend.
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