Gary Melton of the Cedar Creek High School football team can’t wait for Saturday.
The undefeated Pirates will play the first playoff game in school history when they host Cinnaminson (5-3) in a South Jersey Group II quarterfinal at 1 p.m..
“We’re all going to be suped up,” Melton, a senior running back, said. “Everybody is going to be flying around. It’s going to be such a football feeling that have you in your stomach that you just want to go out there and hit somebody.”
The high school football playoffs begin this weekend with quarterfinal games. The semifinals will be played Nov. 30/Dec. 1, while the finals are scheduled for Dec. 7/8.
The Cape-Atlantic League qualified six of nine teams in the American Conference and four of nine in the National Conference. Three local Shore Conference schools and one local West Jersey Football League teams also made the postseason.
For many of those schools, making the playoffs is nothing new. Hammonton is making its 30th playoff appearance since the postseason started in 1974. This is Holy Spirit’s 27th playoff appearance.
But for three local schools – Cedar Creek, Wildwood and Middle Township - the postseason is anything but a familiar experience.
Wildwood qualified for the first time ever. The seventh-seeded Warriors (5-3) will play at No. 2 seed Woodbury (7-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a South Jersey Group I quarterfinal.
Wildwood is one of the smallest public schools in the state with a sophomore through senior class enrollment of 186 students, according to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Many years Wildwood struggled to field a team because of a lack of players. There was yearly talk that program would fold. But the resort town has rallied behind this year’s team. The school is planning to send at least one fan bus to Saturday’s game.
“This is the biggest thing that I’ve ever been a part of,” Wildwood sophomore lineman Mikal Poteat said. “The town believes in us.”
Poteat got his hair cut at a Wildwood barber shot owned by Kyle Wilson this week.
“That’s the hot spot for sports and the main talk in there is Wildwood football,” Poteat said.
Unlike Wildwood, a playoff appearance has come quickly to Cedar Creek. The Egg Harbor City school opened in 2010. This is just Cedar Creek’s second varsity season ever.
The Pirates are 8-0 and the No. 2 seed in South Jersey Group II. Saturday’s playoff game has dominated the morning announcements in school this week. Students have bought neon green towels to waive over their heads during the game.
“We ran out of them because people were buying so many of them,” Melton said.
Cedar Creek players maybe new to the postseason but their coaching staff is not. Several assistants participated in the playoffs, including Kevin Sinclair who led Ocean City to the 1996 South Jersey Group IV title as a standout running back and offensive coordinator Mike Isgro who quarterbacked Absegami to the 2005 South Jersey Group IV final.
“The coaches tell us all the time how great it feels to get that first playoff win,” Melton said. “They’re trying to pound that into our heads. We haven’t been here. They’re trying to tell us how great it would feel to win the first playoff game in school history.”
Middle Township is another team that has struggled to make the playoffs. The Panthers qualified in 1993 and 2004 but the they lost in the first rounds both years. Middle (5-3) the No. 6 seed in South Jersey Group II this year and will play at third-seeded Willingboro (5-3) at 6 p.m. today.
Middle hopes that this year’s playoff berth leads to more postseason appearances in the future.
“We want to start the tradition,” Panthers running back Terrance Toney said. “We’re taking steps to improve the program.”
High school football teams begin practice in the heat of August with the goal of qualifying to play in postseason games this weekend.
This weekend’s games will be among the most vivid memories of the season for local players.
And since this is Wildwood’s first ever playoff game Poteat is not sure exactly what to expect.
But he has a suspicion of what he will see when he looks at the visiting bleachers at Woodbury on Saturday.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be packed,” he said.