26 of the 43 football-playing schools in the Shore Conference have qualified for the watered-down NJSIAA Playoffs which begin this weekend and will end in early December with the crowning of 23 teams as “state champions.”

Just like it comes with a lot of other things in New Jersey we can’t get it right with the playoffs.  This year’s group of teams who qualified include four who finished with 2-6 records and nine that went 3-5 (including Donovan Catholic) plus another 20 or so who finished .500 with 4-4 records.

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Making the playoffs should be a reward for a good season, not mediocrity but the barbaric system in the Garden State is caught up in red tape by school administrators who don’t know the definition of forward thinking.

Anyway since this is the system we have and nobody is taking up my call for a Shore Conference Football Tournament we might as well make the best of it.

The 26 teams from the shore who qualified include top seeds Point Boro, Manalapan and Rumson and once again the Central Jersey Group 4 section is like a mini-Shore Conference Tournament with six of the eight teams.

Brick Memorial will host Jackson Memorial for the second straight week on Friday night and in another all-shore matchup, Long Branch hosts Middletown South.  Brick travels to defending champion Allentown in a rematch of last year’s title game and dangerous Freehold heads to top seed Nottingham in the other first-round matchups in the section.

The only other first-round games that pit local schools against one another are in Central Jersey Group 2 where Raritan visits top-seed and undefeated Point Boro and in South Jersey Group 3 where Lacey hosts Lakewood. If Point Boro wins and defending champion Manasquan gets past Roselle it would set up a semifinal meeting between the two former longtime rivals in the semifinals in what would certainly be a very interesting matchup.

Meanwhile, Lacey beat Lakewood on October 7 in a 34-33 thriller which started a five-game winning streak for the Lions but the Piners are now healthy and playing their best football of the season.

Good or bad, let the playoffs begin.

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