The Mid-State 38 football schedule for 2014-15 passed Wednesday after several months of debate and different proposals. The new cycle has done nothing to relieve Manville, which could use some.
The proposal passed by a 31-7 vote, with most of the dissent coming from Union County. Manville athletic director Steve Venuto also voted against it. Former Watchung Hills athletic director Nick Serritella, who has the thankless job of putting it all together, fielded the proposals offered by coaches and has said that the final result is from what the majority wants.
A few non-conference games is what Manville would like, something South Hunterdon has been able to do with Sussex Tech and New Hope (Pa.) part of it. The Mustangs are 0-7 after Saturday’s 48-7 loss at New Providence and have been hurting since an emotional and pysical effort in a 34-33 loss to Bound Brook in a season-opener at Panfile Stadium.
Mid-State 38 Hills Division champ South Hunterdon is the smallest-football playing program in the state. Manville is believed to be second, if not, close.
“When I learned that our schedule will be identical for another two years I was obviously disappointed but more importantly I’m very concerned,” said Manville coach Pat Gorbatuk. “We are currently a struggling program that plays in the most difficult small school division in the state. At the Mid-State 38 meeting in June I asked those in charge what could be done to guarantee Manville will still have a program in five years and if the conference plans to create relief for programs that are down. I sadly have to say that very few people cared in that room and the new schedule that was voted upon this past week may be proof. I was even told to ‘leave and go independent.'”
The Mustangs don’t want independence. They will be part of a combined small school division in the conference. Group I schools Bound Brook, Pingry, Manville, Roselle Park and South Hunterdon – now playing in the Hills Division – will join Brearley, Belvidere, Dayton and New Providence in one division. Bound Brook will also play a crossover with Bernards. Pingry will play Hillside, South Hunterdon will continue its holiday game with New Hope (Pa.) and New Providence will keep its holiday game with Governor Livingston.
Manville’s crossover will be against three-time division champ Bernards.
“I feel that schools such as Bernards, Roselle Park or New Providence are hurt by having to play us in terms of playoff seeding, I wouldn’t blame school size even though Manville in the second smallest in the conference,” Gorbatuk said. “It shouldn’t matter if a school is big or small. If it belongs to the MS 38 they should be encouraged to go find two or three out-of-conference games that they can be competitive in, so they can build their numbers up and get their community excited about football.”
Traditional Thanksgiving Day games have been preserved in the MS38 next cycle – Franklin-Piscataway, Plainfield-Westfield, North Plainfield-South Plainfield and Governor Livingston-New Providence among them.
Some of the changes:
Watchung Hills, currently in the Watchung Division, returns to the Delaware where it will once again play Elizabeth, Hillsborough, Phillipsburg, Hunterdon Central, Franklin, Bridgewater-Raritan, Westfield and Union. Watchung Hills moved up instead of Ridge because its enrollment is bigger. That’s how the divisions were decided.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood moves up from the Mountain Division to the Watchung along with neighbor Westifeld, which comes in from the Delaware. The rest of the division remains the same with Linden, Immaculata, Montgomery, North Hunterdon, Plainfield and Ridge.
Cranford, North Plainfield, Somerville and Summit remain in the Raritan Division with the newcomers being Governor Livingston, Voorhees and Warren Hills.
Bernards takes a step up, moving from the Union Division to the Mountain where it will have new divisional rivals in A.L. Johnson, Delaware Valley, Rahway, Roselle and Hillside. A.L. Johnson, Delaware Valley and Roselle transfer from the Raritan. Bernards will continue to play Delaware Valley though the two will no longer play on Thanksgiving week.
Bernards will play the other three Somerset County’s original high schools – Somerville, North Plainfield and Bound Brook.
“To us, it will be adjusting to teams that play very two platoon – not full, but very close, larger Group 2s and Group 3s are almost a third of the size bigger than us,” said Mountaineer coach Jon Simoneau. “Just look at Roselle … And Johnson now, North Warren a few years ago, etc. Traditionally, the small tweener Group 2s always struggle. It’s the reason North Warren and Hackettstown left the league.”
Spartans’ big win
Immaculata’s 16-13 victory over Hunterdon Central Friday night was pivotal in several ways for the Spartans, once again headed for the postseason. Immaculata hasn’t had a losing season since 1977, and now appears secure in extending that streak. Immaculata, 4-3, will be a favorite in this week’s Mid-State Watchung Division game at Montgomery. It plays host to unbeaten Mid-State 38 Delaware division champ Phillipsburg on Nov. 9, a rare Saturday afternoon home game for Immaculata. Somerville plays host to Montgomery the night before at Brooks Field in its regular-season finale. Immaculata, fifth in the Non-Public III power-point race, then would either host or to travel to play a first-round playoff game. The Spartans are currently fifth.
The win over Central was Immaculata’s seventh in as many games against the Red Devils.
“It was great for our program, it showed that practice pays off,” said Immaculata coach John Hack. “They are turning the corner and the kids are believing in what we’re doing. If we keep practicing like this we can be very good. It’s too bad that the light bulbs didn’t go on until Linden beat us.”
Sophomore lineman Shannon Brown and senior linebacker Vin Sokalski have been outstanding and have filled the hole left behind by senior defensive end Joe Vitiello, who has been plagued by a pulled hamstring. He has been limited to just a few plays a 31-7 loss to Ridge.
“His replacements have been some of our best players,” said Hack.
Vitiello, who has made a non-binding commitment to Boston College, said he expects to play against Montgomery.
“That’s the plan his doctors have laid out,” Hack said.
Game of the week
A few could be considered: No. 1 Ridge (7-0) visits No. 2 Hunterdon Central (5-2) in a Mid-State 38 cross over. Central will be without senior quarterback Mike Knight (broken leg) and very likely senior back Jason Cabinda (recovering from appendicitis), who played such a big role in his team’s wild win at Ridge last year. No. 7 North Hunterdon plays host to No. 6 Hillsborough, which desperately needs to win to seal a Central Group V playoff spot. North looks like it has made it in North 2 V. No. 10 Delaware Valley visits defending MS 38 Raritan champ Summit Saturday afternoon.