Manley's Blog

Sectional Final Picks (All 20 of ’em)

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 11, 2010

Twenty teams will celebrate a sectional championship on Tuesday night and I know who those 20 teams will be. Probably the 20 I pick against. Let’s start with the locals.

Central Jersey IV Championship
No. 8 Old Bridge vs. N0. 3 Freehold Township, 2 p.m.
Original Sectional Championship prediction: East Brunswick over Freehold Township

I thought Freehold Township had a very friendly draw and while it wasn’t all easy, the Patriots indeed held serve at home* and reached the championship game. Unlike in my original prediction though, Freehold Twp. will host yet another game thanks to a topsy-turvy bracket that saw the top-seeded Bears lose in round one and No. 4 Howell, No. 5 Manalapan and No. 2 Sayreville all lose before the semifinals. Old Bridge is a very formidable opponent that is pretty strong up the middle, plus I’m a fan of junior forward Aron Hart based on what I saw of him in the GMC-Shore Challenge three-and-a-half weeks ago. The Knights have some very good junior and sophomore talent and if those guys get comfortable and confident early, Township will have its hands full. I like the Pats on their home pitch though.
The Pick: Freehold Township 3-2

Central Jersey Group III Championship
No. 8 Hopewell Valley at No. 2 Holmdel
Original Prediction: Holmdel over Princeton

I didn’t have a great feel for whether or not I liked Holmdel’s draw for the Hornets’ sake, but Princeton’s draw as the top seed was absolutely brutal. The Tigers had three legitimate chances to lose before even playing in the final, while I think Holmdel only had one. That also speaks to how good Holmdel is and they will be the heavy favorite in this one. Being the underdog is not problem for Hopewell Valley, as the Bulldogs have already gone on the road for two big wins, both of which were controversial. Going into the season, the Bulldogs were considered by many – along with Hightsown – to be the team to unseat Princeton as the best in Mercer County. They are playing near that level now and if Holmdel has trouble picking the tough Bulldog defense apart, this one could be interesting.
The Pick: Holmdel 2-1 (OT)

South Jersey Non-Public B Championship
No. 3 Trenton Catholic vs. No. 4 St. Rose, at Eastern High School
Original Prediction: Sacred Heart over Holy Cross

Dead. Wrong. St. Rose went down to Vineland and picked off Sacred Heart on Tuesday, while 21-0 Trenton Catholic proved legitimate enough to make it to the championship game after playing a light schedule. This St. Rose team is at least close to last year’s Group finalist and might even be slightly better in some ways, but that’s not the No. 1 reason for optimism in Belmar. No, it’s not that the Bennies are gone, it’s that the top two seeds in North Jersey are gone. The Roses lost to Gill St. Bernard’s in last year’s final and the defending champs are already gone thanks to Oratory Prep. That doesn’t hand St. Rose the title, but it means the Roses have to get though a less-than-tested, but hungry Trenton Catholic team and play a team that may not be the best the North breaket has to offer. St. Rose already survived a scare in the last round when they squandered a 2-0 lead and trailed 3-2 going into the last 18 minutes, so they can play with their backs against the wall.
The Pick: St. Rose 4-2

The Rest

North Jersey, Non-Public A Championship
No. 4 Delbarton vs. No. 3 Pingry, at Passaic Tech
Original Pick: Seton Hall Prep over Delbarton

Both finalists are coming off of penalty kick road wins, with Pingry’s win over national power Seton Hall Prep serving as a pretty big upset. In reality though, Seton Hall has played to some ties this season and Pingry is certainly the kind of team good enough to play the Pirates even for 100 minutes, and at that point, you might as well flip a coin. It must feel like justice for Pingry, which was considered the favorite last year and lost in the quarterfinal, only to watch a junior-heavy Seton Hall team take the title. Delbarton, meanwhile, has only lost once and may very well have the inside track to the Non-Public A title.
The Pick: Pingry 2-1

North Jersey, Non-Public B Championship
No. 3 Oratory Prep vs. No. 4 Newark Academy
Original Pick: Gil St. Bernard’s over Montclair Kimberley

Both top seeds went down in the semis and that leaves two programs with a golden opportunity. GSB was much better than St. Rose in last year’s final, so the winner of this one should feel pretty good about winning a state championship. I thought GSB was the best team in the bracket, so I’ll take the team that beat the team.
The Pick: Oratory 2-1

South Jersey, Non-Public A Championship
No. 1 St. Augustine vs. No. 3 St. Joseph, Metuchen, at Holmdel
Original Pick: CBA over St. Augustine

In a lot of ways, yes, CBA should have beaten St. Joe’s. They played a better possession game, got good opportunities on the net, and scored on much, much prettier plays. Perhaps the first St. Joe’s goal was debatable, but one thing you can’t take away from St. Joe’s is that they went out and took that game. They were ready for a penalty kick scenario and worked like hell to get to that point and if they scored on the way there, so be it. They are a hard-working group with a stud in the middle in Brandon Allen and I think he’s more dangerous against St. Augustine than he was against CBA. Still, unlike CBA, St. Augustine has a player you must follow at all times in Connor Hurff, and that will make this game a little tougher for St. Joe’s in terms of defending. They’ll have more possession, but the counter-attack will more of a factor.
The Pick: St. Augustine 3-2

North Jersey 1 Group IV Championship
No. 2 Clifton at No. 1 West Orange
Original Pick: West Orange over Clifton

Quite simply the game of the day. If you want to watch a competitive game between two high-level public school teams, this is the best you’re going to do. Why change my pick?
The Pick: West Orange 1-0

North Jersey 1 Group III
No. 4 Wayne Valley at No. 3 Montville
Original Pick: Northern Highlands over Ramapo

Northern Highlands looked like a safe bet as a No. 1 seed, but No. 9 Pascack Valley picked them off in the second round, leaving the door open for Wayne Valley to make the run to the championship. On the other side of the bracket, Montville beat red-hot Ramapo in a classic, winning on a direct kick from 25 yards by Rutgers recruit J.P. Correa in the final minute. Montville and Holmdel are head and shoulders the rest of Group III in terms of talent, and if you’re looking for the best possible state final games, that would be your dream match in Group III.
The Pick: Montville 3-1

North Jersey 1 Group II Championship
No. 8 Kinnelon at No. 3 Glen Rock
Original Pick: Glen Rock over Ramsey

I’m not a fan of going back on a pick, but I’m going to do that here. I was hesitant to jump on the Kinnelon bandwagon even though they played a month without stud midfielder Bryan Gallego (transfer from Benedict’s) because I thought Ramsey was a formidable enough team to hold them off at home, but with the way they are playing with Gallego and Matt Jenne, who has scored seven goals in three state games including two hat tricks, they look awfully good. There won’t be a Shore team playing in Saturday’s Group I and II finals, but watching Kinnelon might be enough incentive to go check out the games.
The Pick: Kinnelon 3-2

North Jersey 1 Group I Championship
No. 2 Midland Park at No. 1 Wallington
Original Pick: Wallington over Midland Park

Two extremely talented Group I programs square off in what could effectively be the Group I Championship, for all intents and purposes. Wallington has two big scorers in Tomek Kwiatkowski and Konrad Plewa, while Midland Park is a balanced side that has steamrolled its competition. If you’re asking me – and if you’re reading this then I assume you are – the winner of this one wins the Group I title.
The Pick: Wallington 2-1

North Jersey 2 Group IV Championship
No. 7 Hunterdon Central at No. 1 Bridgewater-Raritan
Original Pick: Columbia over Hunterdon Central

I took a shot with Columbia and wound up with egg on my face, but they only lost by a goal to Bridgewater, so it’s not a terrible way to go. Hunterdon Central has been an impressive team at times this year and certainly, winning three games in a row – two on the road – counts as impressive. But Bridgewater’s been on a mission since losing to Pingry in the Somerset final, and I like them at home.
The Pick: Bridgewater-Raritan 1-0

North Jersey 2 Group III Championship
No. 9 Scotch Plains-Fanwood at No. 2 Chatham
Original Pick: Chatham over Scotch Plains

Chatham has outscored opponents 11-0 in three games in the tournament thus far and I thought their side of the bracket was much tougher than the top half, which Scotch Plains survived. The Raiders have always had a strong program and they will be tough in this one, but it’s hard to doubt Chatham right now.
The Pick: Chatham 2-0

North Jersey 2 Group II Championship
No. 2 Bernards at No. 1 Cliffside Park
Original Pick: Bernards over Cliffside Park

Both teams breezed through their respective sides on the bracket to reach the final, with Bernards outscoring opponents 11-0 and Cliffside Park 12-0. My pick was based on the fact that Bernards had a more impressive regular season schedule and while both teams are talented enough to win, it helps to be battle-tested. That’s why I lean toward the road team.
The Pick: Bernards 2-1

North Jersey 2 Group I
No. 4 Glen Ridge at No. 2 New Providence
Original Pick: Glen Ridge over Harrison

Dayton was the defending sectional champ and I still thought Glen Rock was the safer bet in the semifinals because of the difficult schedule that prepared them for the playoff run. New Providence is a very solid group and I debated the Harrison-NewProvidence game for a few minutes for that reason and I am using the same precaution while making this pick. I’m not sure about Glen Ridge’s scoring (four goals in three games, albeit against solid teams), but I’ll stick with them against a New Providence team that can put it int he net.
The Pick: Glen Ridge 2-1

Central Jersey Group II
No. 3 North Plainfield at No. 1 Delaware Valley
Original Pick: North Plainfield over Shore

I really thought No. 12 Shore was a great bet to win this bracket after catching them play in the SCT, and I was almost as shocked to see them lose in the first round as I was to see Howell lose to Trenton in CJ IV. Alas, the Blue Devils bowed out early and top-seeded Delaware Valley is alive and well, outscoring opponents 7-0 during the tournament’s three rounds. North Plainfield, meanwhile, has allowed some goals – 6 in three games to be exact – but they’ve also scored 12 in the same span and are coming off a 3-0 road shutout of A.L. Johnson. I’ll admit that I’m leaning toward Del. Val. but I like North Plainfield’s firepower.
The Pick: North Plainfield 3-2

Central Jersey Group I Championship
No. 9 Bound Brook at No. 2 South River
Original Pick: Metuchen over New Egypt

I may have whiffed on this bracket worse than any other, with the exception of maybe South Jersey IV. Bound Brook beat defending SJ I champ and defending CJ I champ Metuchen on the way to the championship and yet to allow a goal. The funny thing about them is that they won their fist two games on the road and then got to play a home game in the semis as a No. 9 seed. South River has been the opposite, playing all three games at home and racking up a tournament best 14 goals in that time. One of those was a 5-4 shootout win over Highland Park, so they can be scored upon. I’ll take the defense.
The Pick: Bound Brook 1-0

South Jersey Group IV Championship
No. 5 Cherokee at No. 3 Shawnee
Original Pick: Toms River North over Toms River South

Maybe my subconscious Shore bias got the better of me with this pick, because right after I published the preview and began to realize how good Shawnee and Washington Township were, I started having second thoughts. I still felt pretty confident about Toms River North against Cherokee and Eastern, but the Mariners lost a heartbreak. Shawnee was very impressive when I saw them and the Renegades already beat Cherokee 4-1 on their home field this year. It’ll be closer, but ultimately, it will be the same result.
The Pick: Shawnee 3-1

South Jersey Group III Championship
No. 5 Hammonton at No. 2 Timber Creek
Original Pick: Moorestown over Central

I had the right idea on the top half of the bracket; I just had the wrong team. Hammonton is a very solid group with a few good players and all of them play hard. I honestly don’t know much about Timber Creek, but if they can take down Moorestown and score 13 goals in three state games, they must be very good. I’ll find out more about Timber Creek when they play Holmdel.
The Pick: Timber Creek 3-2

South Jersey Group II Championship
No. 5 Haddon Heights at No. 2 Delran
Original Pick: Delran over Cinnaminson

Delran is in search of its third straight share of a Group II title – sharing the 2008 crown and winning last year’s outright – and they look poised to at least get a shot on championship Saturday. The Bears have not allowed a goal and have scored 10 during a dominant run through the tournament thus far. Haddon Heights has also been impressive, shutting out its first two opponents and pulling out a 2-1 win over Woodstown, which stunned top-seeded Cinnaminson in the quarterfinals. While it’s been a good run, Haddon Heights may not have enough magic to take down a very good Delran team.
The Pick: Delran 3-0

South Jersey Group I Championship
No. 6 Maple Shade at No. 1 Pitman
Original Pick: Pitman over Haddon Township

As a Group I school that played and competed well in Group II last year, I thought Haddon Township should have been considered the favorite in this field and picking Pitman was more of a hunch than the most educated guess. Maple Shade, however, exploded for six goals in the semifinal against Haddon Township and matched South River for goals through three tournament games with 14. Pitman had an easier road to the final, but they seem like the more stable choice. Something just feels right about Maple Shade though. Screw it, I’ve already changed my mind once. What’s once more?
The Pick: Maple Shade 2-1


2 Responses

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  1. NJ Soccer Mom said, on November 11, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Ho Val had no business being in the finals. They cheated CN out of a hand goal and ran with it. Shame on them. Ryan Woods was quoted “I dont know what they saw but it was my head…” and he is a liar and there is video tape to prove it. Let me know where to send the footage.

  2. Holmdel Soccer said, on November 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Dont worry we took care of those scumbaggs. NJ Central G3 Champs!

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