Atlantic City's #1 Isiah Graves gets past Absegami's #5 Tyler Welch, left during first half of high school football game at Atlantic City High School Friday, Nov, 8, 2013.

Edward Lea

ROBBINSVILLE — The possibility of statewide playoffs for New Jersey high school football public schools moved a step closer to reality Wednesday.

The executive committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association unanimously approved, with two abstentions, a format that would be used for statewide playoffs in 2014 and 2015. The format preserves Thanksgiving Day rivalries but extends the season’s length. In some years, the season would start Labor Day weekend.

The approved format, however, will not be used unless the state high schools vote at the NJSIAA’s general membership meeting on Dec. 2 to change the organization’s constitution to allow statewide playoffs for public schools.

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The constitution currently bans statewide public school playoffs in football. Public school teams currently only play for sectional titles. The football playoffs began in 1974 and no one now connected with the NJSIAA can remember exactly why the ban was put in the constitution. New Jersey non-public schools have played for a state title since 1993.

NJSIAA officials have discussed the proposed statewide playoffs with athletic directors from around the state at four sectional meetings this fall.

The NJSIAA took action Wednesday to give members a clearer idea of what the playoff system would be if the schools approve the constitution change.

“The schools wanted to make sure there would be no changes or tweaking in the format,” NJSIAA assistant director Jack Dubois said. “This is what they’re voting on.”

Under the format approved Wednesday, the season would end the second weekend in December with 10 public school teams playing for state titles in five enrollment groups. The season would also start a week earlier, which means in some years — like 2015 — the season would begin Labor Day weekend.

Here are the details of the plan:

  • Teams would play a nine-game regular season that includes Thanksgiving games.
  • The playoffs would begin week 10 of the season.
  • Teams that do not make the playoffs would play a consolation game on week 10 or week 11. Teams will be allowed to play only one consolation game.
  • The format for state Non-Public playoffs would remain unchanged. The Non-Public finals would be played the weekend before Thanksgiving. Non-Public state champions would play a maximum of 12 games. Public school state champions would play a maximum of 14 games.

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I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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