The three-time defending sectional champion Sayreville High School football team, despite having a 5-2 record, may not qualify for the NJSIAA playoffs if it loses to South Brunswick on Friday night.
Sayreville, which has not defeated an opponent with a winning record, has victories against teams with a combined 8-23 mark.
As a result, the Bombers are currently ranked eighth in the Central Group V section, just one power point ahead of Brick Memorial and one behind Montgomery.
After opening the year 1-2 with losses to Old Bridge and Edison, Sayreville has reeled off four consecutive victories, all of which the Bombers likely needed to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“I don’t think we could have afforded a loss anywhere,” Sayreville head coach George Najjar said. “We are not leaving anything to conjecture here. We know if we win (Friday night) we are in. If we lose, it becomes a whole muddled picture. We don’t want to leave it to that.”
The top eight teams in each section, according to their NJSIAA power point rankings based on their top seven calculations through eight games, qualify for the postseason.
According to unofficial calculations, at least 16 Greater Middlesex Conference schools remain in playoff berth contention.
Old Bridge can likely secure the top seed in Central Group V and win its first Red Division title with a victory over J.P. Stevens on Nov. 8. Monroe and South Brunswick are currently ranked fifth and sixth in the same section.
Carteret, winner of last year’s Central Group II championship, is currently ranked eighth in Central Group III, but four of the teams ahead of the Ramblers (4-2) have already played one more game. With at least one victory over Colonia or J.F. Kennedy, Carteret should secure a postseason berth.
Colonia and J.F. Kennedy are currently ranked third and sixth, respectively, in North 2 Group IV, while ninth-ranked Woodbridge needs a win over Bishop Ahr to keep alive its slim postseason hopes in the same section.
Spotswood (7-0), which can claim the Blue Division title with a win over South River on Saturday, is the top seed in Central Group II but a couple of teams behind the Chargers can bump them from that perch. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-0) and Delran (5-1) pose the biggest threat to Spotswood’s potential top seed.
Perennial power Piscataway (3-3) solidified its chances of extending its playoff streak to 17 consecutive seasons with last weekend’s upset of Monroe.
The Chiefs and Edison are currently ranked fourth and seventh, respectively, in North 2 Group V.
All three teams ranked ahead of Piscataway in the section – Ridge (7-0), Watchung Hills (5-2) and Bayonne (4-3) – have played one more game. Piscataway faces North Brunswick (0-7) and East Brunswick (1-6) before the cutoff, so it won’t accrue significant power points.
South Plainfield (4-2) currently ranks seventh in North 2 Group III, but every team ahead of the Tigers has already played seven games.
South River, currently ranked third in Central Group I, has already secured a playoff berth but could take the top seed in its section and claim the Blue Division title with a win over Spotswood on Saturday.
Metuchen (2-5), currently eighth in Central Group I, could back into the postseason even with a loss to Mater Dei this weekend if Palmyra (2-4) were to lose its final two games before the cutoff.
Friday night’s loss to Spotswood likely knocked Dunellen out of playoff contention. The Destroyers (3-4), currently ranked ninth in North 2 Group I, will accrue minimal power points with a forfeit victory over Cardinal McCarrick this weekend.
St. Joseph (7-0) is currently ranked third in Non-Public Group IV, while Bishop Ahr sits ninth in Non-Public Group III.
Chewy’n up yards
Senior running back Chewy Chukwuneke, whose reps in practice last week were limited due to a deep thigh bruise, rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries in J.P. Stevens’ 30-20 comeback victory over East Brunswick on Friday night.
Chukwuneke, who has amassed 1,094 yards on the ground through six games, is on pace to break the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,557 yards.
“We were hesitant about how he was going to perform coming in (to Friday night’s game),” said J.P. Stevens coach Jim Collins, noting he told Chukwuneke’s younger brother, Chris, a freshman, to be ready for an increased workload.
“He was just an absolute warrior,” said Collins, noting Chewy’s touchdowns all came in the second half. “He did what he had to do.”
Chukwuneke took a helmet just above the knee cap in the opening half of an Oct. 18 loss to South Brunswick. He did not play a single snap in practice until Thursday, but was involved in team meetings and every other aspect of game preparation.
“You know he’s going to get the ball,” Collins said, “but it’s tough to stop him.”
Knights are defensive
Old Bridge limited Edison’s high-octane offense to just six first downs and 134 yards from scrimmage in a 28-0 victory Friday night.
The Knights’ best defense was a ball-control offense that possessed the pigskin for 29 minutes, 25 seconds.
David Hopman and Dmitriy Mikhol led Old Bridge defensively with eight and seven tackles, respectively, while Denis Kilduff and T.J. Townsend each recorded a sack.
Dan Grillo and Marcus Lominy each had an interception. Lominy started in the secondary due to an injury to Cameron Hutchins.
Old Bridge has surrendered fewer points (72) than any Red Division team.
Rambling Ram Ryan
Doug Ryan has accounted for all of South River’s touchdowns in four of the Rams’ six victories this season.
Ryan scored a total of 14 times in wins over Metuchen, Dunellen, Keyport and Middlesex. The Rams won all three of those games in comeback fashion by a total of 13 points. Ryan did most of his damage in those contests after intermission.
“He seems to get stronger as the game goes on,” South River coach Rich Marchesi said. “Middlesex did a nice job early on (in Saturday’s 21-13 loss to the Rams) and he just kept pounding in the third and fourth quarter. I asked him if he was getting tired. He wanted the ball, so I just kept giving it to him.”
The GMC has realigned its football divisions for the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the only maneuvers being North Brunswick dropping from the Red to the White and New Brunswick dropping from the White to the Blue. Cardinal McCarrick, which will play an independent schedule the next two years, plans to return to GMC competition in 2016.