Back in January of 1971, late R&B legend Marvin Gaye released an anti-Vietnam War anthem entitled, “What’s Going On,” that became one of Gaye’s biggest selling singles.
Well, if Gaye was still with us today, he could warble that same tune in regards to the current state of high school football in Hudson County.
Because frankly, the entire season, which reaches the midway mark this weekend, has everyone wondering what’s going on.
How can it be that North Bergen, which has qualified for the NJSIAA state playoffs for the last 21 straight campaigns and has been a part of the state playoffs every year except two since the playoff concept was introduced in 1976, is now 0-4 after losing last weekend to Memorial?
If you look at the power point standings in North Jersey Section 1, Group IV right now, the Bruins are tied for dead last with Barringer and Paterson Eastside. Last in the power point rankings? With an 0-4 record? North Bergen? Almost unthinkable.
But it’s true. The unfathomable loss last weekend to Memorial has virtually eliminated the Bruins from the post-season for the first time since 1987. It’s almost too hard to conceive the idea that North Bergen and legendary head coach Vince Ascolese won’t be headed to the state playoffs.
However, the North Bergen football program has fallen on some tough times. The demographics in the township have changed dramatically and the once-invincible Pop Warner youth football program in the town has seen its numbers dip and the talent level dwindle.
The rapid demise of the Bruins has to be the biggest surprise of the current season. In fact, it’s downright shocking. You always just took it for granted that North Bergen would be a local gridiron power.
But that’s not the case anymore. And frankly, it’s a little sad.
How about the Non-Public (Parochial) Group 4 power point standings? Right now, the mighty Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep, owners of an uncharacteristic 2-2 record, are tied for eighth in the standings with 16 power points with St. John Vianney.
If the playoffs were to begin this weekend, the Marauders would be on the outside looking in, for the first time since the early 1990s.
For the last five years, the Marauders have been hovering around the top five programs in the entire state, but the early season losses to St. Joseph of Montvale and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Maryland have sent the Marauders reeling toward the bottom of the Group 4 power point rankings.
Now, it is also a temporary condition, because the Marauders should be able to win out the rest of the way, facing Hudson County opponents, where they haven’t lost an HCIAA game since 1999 and a game to a Hudson County team since 2000.
But it still was a little shocking to see the Marauders down at the bottom of the point standings. Even if they win out, it’s more than likely that the Marauders will not have the luxury of playing home playoff games this November. They will have to be road warriors.
Another huge shock is the positioning of St. Anthony in its first varsity football season. The Friars are in second place in the Non-Public (Parochial) Group 1 standings, behind perennial state champion Paterson Catholic. But the Friars, with a record of 3-1, can control their own playoff destiny with just two more victories. It’s an amazing story. Again, what’s going on?
As for local teams in good position for the state playoffs, we can start with Hoboken, which has a 2-2 record and stands in third place in North Jersey Section 2, Group I. The Red Wings’ schedule, facing nothing but bigger schools, helps their playoff standing, so the Red Wings need only two more wins to clinch a berth. Consider it done.
Right now, Lincoln is in second place in North Jersey Section 2, Group II with 17 points, four behind front-runner Hillside. But the Lions cannot afford many more slipups like they’ve endured the last two weeks, losing to Hudson Catholic and Hoboken in successive games.
Ferris is in solid position in Section 2, Group III. The Bulldogs (3-1) have 21 points, which currently places them in seventh in a very competitive bracket. The Bulldogs need a few more wins as well to secure their post-season position.
After starting the season with two losses, the fledgling Union City program finds itself in sixth place in the North Jersey Section 1, Group IV rankings. The Soaring Eagles also need to secure a few more wins to earn a berth in the playoffs in their first season.
Undefeated Secaucus (3-0) is fifth in the same Group I bracket as Hoboken, but the Patriots only play schools of equal size, so they definitely have to keep winning to make sure they’re in the playoff picture. The Patriots have a tough game this weekend against BCSL National rival Lyndhurst.
The other local teams with state playoff hopes are St. Joseph of the Palisades in Non-Public Group I, as well as Marist and Hudson Catholic in Non-Public Group 2.
Hudson Catholic is in third place in the Group 2 standings and the Hawks also control their own fate, clinching a playoff spot with two more wins. Marist is in fifth place right now and will also need to win a few more before its playoff ticket is punched.
The rest of Hudson County’s teams are playing for pride.
Speaking of pride, Caven Point’s Cochrane Stadium in Jersey City opened last week with its new FieldTurf surface, with Hudson Catholic christening the field in its 33-14 win over Ferris.
It means that Jersey City’s seven high schools will no longer have to play its games on the road. The field looks in beautiful condition and officials assured that the surface will be easy to maintain and keep in solid working order.
So Caven Point is open and operating, there are several teams still fighting for playoff positions and there have been downright shocking events taking place from the first kickoff.
Truly, it’s been a year thus far that makes everyone wonder what’s going on.