The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced new group classifications for public high school football teams Friday.
The NJSIAA, which oversees most high school sports in the state, announced in May that it would add a fifth enrollment group for football only in each of the state’s four sections. The association said the new groups would go into effect this year but did not specify which schools would be changing groups. Each section now consists of Groups I, II, III, IV and V for football, the smallest schools based on enrollment in Group I and the largest in Group IV.
Local programs in the new South Jersey Group V include Absegami, Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township, Millville, Southern Regional and Vineland.
Each group has 15 teams and the top eight teams in each group based on power points will make the playoffs. Prior to the new system, there were 19 teams in each enrollment group.
Southern coach Chuck Donohue Sr. said the new group doesn’t affect the Rams too much. Southern is one of the state’s largest schools and accustomed to battling many of other schools in the new Group V for power points.
However, when the NJSIAA realigned the groups, it moved Shore Conference rival Jackson Memorial from Central Jersey to South Jersey. The Rams play at Jackson Memorial on Oct. 26.
“Anytime you have conference teams in your grouping, those games against those teams mean a lot,” Donohue said Friday. “It puts more emphasis for us on (the Jackson Memorial) game.”
Oakcrest remains in Group IV but will no longer face the possibility of meeting a much larger school in the playoffs.
“I remember before, there was such a disparity, especially in Group IV, from top to bottom (in enrollment figures),” Falcons coach Chuck Smith said.
Smith also said he hoped the NJSIAA will one day alter its playoff system. Under the new system, teams do not have to have a .500 record to make the playoffs.
There will now be 20 sectional champions for public schools, plus four state Non-Public winners.
“If the top four teams (in each group qualified), it’d really make it prestigious to make the playoffs and maybe that could enable a team to be a true state champion,” Smith said.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
New S.J. football groups
Cherry Hill East
Egg Harbor Township
Toms River North
Cherry Hill West
Toms River East
Toms River South
Point Pleasant Boro
Lower Cape May