The 2018 season is having sectional champions face off at Giants Stadium for the first time in what they are calling bowl games. Every public school bowl game and each Non-Public final will be played over two weekends. The winners of North Sections 1 and 2 will play one another, while the South and Central champions will face one another.
That makes it thirteen games over Thanksgiving weekend (November 23-24) and the first weekend in December (November 30-December 1).
I was told by Jack DuBois at the NJSIAA earlier this year that the schedule will not be decided until the sectional finals are complete. The scheduling will revolve around who plays on Thanksgiving. The teams that have a Thanksgiving game will play the following weekend, while teams without Thanksgiving games will play Thanksgiving weekend. The one risk is having more than six games involve a team playing on Thanksgiving Day; that would make things interesting.
Below is a list of teams from each section that have Thanksgiving games and a summary of each area. I am not saying how likely they are going to be in the bowl game, just listing them. Please note, if a team plays the night before Thanksgiving, I am counting that as a Thanksgiving game.
After this weekend, there will be a better picture of who may play when.
North Section 1:
Group 1: No teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 2: No teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 3: No teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 4: No teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 5: Hackensack, Clifton, and Kennedy play on Thanksgiving Day.
Summary: Groups 1 through 4 have a chance to play on Thanksgiving weekend, provided their opponent is not playing a regular season game on Thanksgiving. In Group 5, it depends on who wins the section.
North Section 2:
Group 1: Shabazz, Weequahic, and New Providence play Thanksgiving games.
Group 2: Dumont is only team playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 3: Rahway is the only team playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 4: Phillipsburg is the only team playing Thanksgiving Day.
Group 5: Piscataway, East Orange, and Westfield are the only teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Summary: If Hasbrouck Heights makes it to the bowl game in Group 1, they have a good chance to play Thanksgiving weekend because they would be expected to play all three teams listed. Group 2 will probably play their game on Thanksgiving weekend because Dumont is a heavy underdog against Verona the first round. In Group 3, Rahway has a chance, but have semi-final and final possibilities against West Essex and Summit. Group 4 has only Phillispburg and they have the potential to be in the bowl game; if they are knocked off along the way, we may see the Group 4 on Thanksgiving weekend. In Group 5, Piscataway is the favorite and they play on Thanksgiving. Same scenario as Groups 3 and 4.
Group 1: Salem, Woodstown, Gateway, Schalick, and Glassboro play Thanksgiving games.
Group 2: Haddonfield, Pleasantville, and Camden play Thanksgiving games.
Group 3: Oakcrest, Timber Creek, Wall, Woodrow Wilson, Triton, and Deptford have Thanksgiving games – that’s six of eight teams.
Group 4: Millville, Winslow, Shawnee, Mainland, Clearview, Highland Regional, and Ocean City play Thanksgiving games – that’s seven of eight teams.
Group 5: Vineland, Lenape, Kingsway, and Rancocas Valley play Thanksgiving games.
Summary: If Penns Grove or Buena win Group 1, it is a Thanksgiving weekend possibility. Group 2 is loaded and anything is possible; it all depends on who wins the section. While not as loaded as Group 2, Group 3 also depends on who wins the section. Group 4 will probably play in December. In Group 5, Williamstown is the favorite and could play Thanksgiving weekend if they win the section; if Rancocas Valley, Lenape, or Kingsway win the section, this will be a December game.
Group 1: Florence, Middlesex, Woodbury, and Asbury Park play on Thanksgiving.
Group 2: Cinnaminson and Manasquan play on Thanksgiving.
Group 3: Red Bank plays on Thanksgiving.
Group 4: Long Branch, Middletown South, and Middletown North play on Thanksgiving.
Group 5: Edison is the only team that plays on Thanksgiving.
Summary: In Group 1, the top two seeds, Willingboro and Paulsboro, do not play on Thanksgiving. If someone else wins, it could be a December game. In Group 2, Hillside is the favorite, but several teams can win this, so we will have to wait and see. Group 3 has the anticipated showdown of Somerville and Rumson-Fair Haven in the final, but Red Bank has had a big year and could spoil things. Group 4 is a good group, with both Long Branch and Middletown South able to win it, along with a few others. It all depends on who wins. In Group 5, Edison is doing very well, but have a tough gauntlet to get through. If the top seeds (Sayreville and Williamstown) win both their respective sections, it could be Thanksgiving weekend.
Group 2: Holy Spirit and Gloucester Catholic play on Thanksgiving Day.
Group 3: Donovan Catholic is the only team playing on Thanksgiving Day.
Group 4: No teams playing Thanksgiving Day.
Summary: Group 4 will be played Thanksgiving weekend and I would not be surprised if it is the Friday night game at 8:00. In Group 3, Donovan Catholic is a heavy underdog this weekend and I do not see them making it to the final, making this a Thanksgiving weekend game. In Group 2, Holy Spirit will probably be in the final against St. Joe’s (Hammonton) – book this game for December. Gloucester Catholic gets eliminated this weekend.