Yours truly has never been a fan of the New Jersey High School Football Playoffs for many reasons which I won’t bore you with now.

However the fact of the matter is when you ask coaches and players what their #1 goal is at the start of the season the most popular answer would likely be “win a state title.”  So the bottom line is what I or any other critic thinks means little because those directly involved in the sport still aspire to be one of the 23 teams that at the end of the season can hoist a trophy high in the air and proclaim themselves as a state champion.

This season saw a new system put in place to determine the 185 teams that would qualify for the playoffs and there has been considerable debate over that system.  It will likely be tweaked in the offseason but beginning tonight that focus will go where it should as 23 Shore Conference teams take aim at what they consider the ultimate prize.

Clearly the group most likely to produce a champion from the shore is Central Jersey Group 4 where 7 of the 8 teams that qualified are from the Ocean/Monmouth County area.  Long Branch and Middletown South are the top two seeds and will host games tonight while Saturday Brick Memorial visits Freehold and Jackson heads to Brick.

The Jaguars-Green Dragons game was moved from tonight to tomorrow night over concerns with bad weather and features two rivals with an interesting history.  Brick has won 27 of the 40 lifetime meetings but Jackson has claimed victory in all four state playoff games between the teams, most recently in 2015.

Among other notable playoff openers tonight, Toms River North will travel to Vineland in the always challenging South Jersey Group 5 bracket and Barnegat visits West Deptford in South Jersey Group 3.  Tomorrow in Non-Public Group 3 Donovan Catholic visits powerful Mater Dei Prep just two weeks after losing to the Seraphs 48-12 in a regular season matchup.

For results and more of this weekend’s playoff action visit shoresportsnetwork.com or simply download the free Shore Sports Network app.