October 31, 2007
Lots at stake this weekend as football playoff deadline approaches
By TOM WILLIAMS
You think the end of major league baseball's regular season was exciting? It's got
nothing on the football races in the Cape-Atlantic League. Whoever put together
this year's schedule should get a raise.
Consider what is coming up this weekend.
On Friday night, Vineland will visit the Mustang Corral in Linwood where Mainland
can wrap up the American Conference championship with a victory.
About 19 hours later, in Hammonton, the longest winning streak in CAL history and
the third longest in South Jersey history will go on the line when St. Joseph
faces Holy Spirit in a battle of two 7-0 teams. It will be the only CAL game on
Saturday and the final league game before the playoffs. And it is the game many
people have waited all year to see.
St. Joseph's last loss was on Sept. 24, 2004 when Holy Spirit defeated the
Wildcats, 13-9. Many think that it will also be the Spartans who end the streak.
It should be pointed out, however, that many thought Bridgeton would end the
streak. Or St. Augustine Prep.
Regardless, this is a great way for the CAL season to end before the playoffs
begin. Two games that amount to conference championship games on consecutive days.
But there is lots more happening than just a couple of conference titles. This
weekend is basically the first week of the playoffs. Consider these possibilities.
In Group 4, Mainland has clinched a playoff spot and will open the playoffs at
home if it beats Vineland. Right now Mainland is No. 3 but, should it lose, it
could drop as far as No. 5, which would mean opening on the road. It could also
move up to No. 2 with a win and a loss by Eastern.
There are three other teams who are hoping to join the Mustangs in the Group 4
field. Atlantic City and Absegami will play in Galloway Township Friday night.
The winner of that game will qualify for the playoffs if either Williamstown (6-1)
loses to Cumberland (6-1) or Lenape (4-3) loses to Timber Creek (4-3). It is also
possible that ACHS could qualify by winning if both Williamstown and Lenape win,
provided Millville upsets Hammonton. Absegami cannot qualify unless it wins and
either Williamstown or Lenape lose.
Egg Harbor Township has a tougher road. The Eagles must beat Oakcrest Friday
night in Mays Landing and both Williamstown and Lenape must lose for EHT to reach
the playoffs. And, even then, some other games would have to go in EHT's favor.
Right behind Egg Harbor Township is Cherokee, which has faced Absegami in the
last two South Jersey Group 4 finals. Cherokee can only qualify is it beats
Pennsauken and Williamstown, Lenape and EHT all lose, plus a couple other results
help them out.
In Group 3, Hammonton is currently No. 1 and will probably stay there. Winslow
Township could move past the Blue Devils if Hammonton loses to Millville and
Winslow upsets Eastern (7-0). There is a slim chance Winslow could move to No. 1
if both teams win. Lacey and Cumberland have also clinched playoff spots and five
teams - Seneca, Delsea, Shawnee, Clearview and Timber Creek - are competing for
the remaining four positions.
In Group 2, Bridgeton has clinched a spot and Buena could join the Bulldogs with
a win over Lower Cape May on Friday, though it would still need some help from
Moving to the Non-Public groups, St. Joseph has won an NJSIAA football
championship eight straight years, an all-time state record. The Wildcats have
qualified again in Group 2 along with Holy Cross, Gloucester Catholic and Morris
Catholic. Should St. Joe beat Holy Spirit, it would clinch the No. 1 seed. With a
loss, St. Joe could fall as far as No. 3, which might mean playing all its
playoff games on the road.
A few weeks ago, St. Augustine Prep was in the No. 1 spot in Group 4. But this
group is loaded with impressive teams, including Don Bosco Prep and St. Peter's
Prep, both among the Top 10 in the East in USA Today. After losses to Holy Spirit
and St. Joe, The Prep is now in trouble. The only way St. Augustine can qualify
is to beat Pleasantville Friday night and get the right result from three other
games - Oakcrest must beat EHT, Middle Township must beat Bridgeton and Lower
Cape May must beat Buena. And even then the Hermits would have to win a
That brings us to Non-Public 3. Holy Spirit is currently No. 2 behind Immaculata,
the team that eliminated the Spartans in last year's playoffs. But Immaculata has
already played eight games and only a team's first eight games count. So, Holy
Spirit has a chance to take over the No. 1 seed, meaning that all of its playoff
games would be at Ed Byrnes Stadium. And the Spartans can get some help from a
long-time rival - a win by Mainland would give Spirit an important extra point in
the standings. It would also help Bill Walsh's team if Middle Township upsets
Bridgeton. And there are three games in North Jersey that could impact the
What this all amounts to is a gigantic weekend. You can go to Linwood Friday and
Hammonton Saturday where conference championships will be on the line. But, no
matter what game you select, it has playoff implications somewhere.
Read more of
Tom Williams' columns