Beginning this fall, 160 high school football teams around the state will have the opportunity to win a state sectional championship, under a proposal approved by the NJSIAA this afternoon.
The NJSIAA Executive Committee approved the proposal to create a Group V designation in the four public school sections by a vote of 22-5-3 at its meeting in Robbinsville, according to Jack DuBois, NJSIAA assistant director who's in charge of football.
"This creates a greater opportunity for schools and for student-athletes," DuBois said. "It increases the number of teams playing in the playoffs from 128 to 160. At the same time, it eliminates 16 consolation games that schools didn't want to play anyway."
The move to create a fifth group shifts River Dell into North 1 Group 3 from North 1 Group 2, where they will no longer face rival Ramsey in the postseason but retain taking on Mahwah and Pascack Valley. The Golden Hawks will continue to face West Essex who they lost to this past winter at Meadowlands Stadium.
Ramsey coach Vic Tribuzio stated in a report to The Record that, "I am going to miss playing River Dell."
Bergen Catholic on the other hand will continue to compete in the North A bracket and face familiar faces such as arch rival Don Bosco who has claimed the state title for six consecutive years, Paramus Catholic, St. Peter's Prep and Seton Hall Prep. The newest addition to the mix would be St. Joseph of Metuchen.
The proposal also allows teams whose records are under .500 to participate in the playoffs if they are needed to fill an eight-team bracket.
"We fill brackets in other sports that way, such as baseball and soccer," DuBois said.
The four sections -- North Jersey Section 1, North Jersey Section 2, Central Jersey and South Jersey -- will now have 15 teams per group instead of 19, which improves the chances of a team making the playoffs, he said.
DuBois said the finalized list of team groupings won't be available until after the NJSIAA receives school enrollment numbers from the state, which they expect to receive sometime in June.