Convoluted Formulas and All, Barnegat Football Team Appears Headed for State Playoffs

Oct 24, 2018

By the end of this weekend, all the state’s football teams will know whether they’ve made the NJSIAA playoffs. Does it seem to be a bit early in the season to determine playoff teams? Well, it is earlier than it has been during the past 20 years.

During the offseason, a new playoff system was adopted – apparently, the state’s getting away from the old system, which crowned 16 sectional champs, in favor of creating one in which eight group champs will emerge (five public groups, three nonpublic groups) following five playoff weeks – and that meant some drastic changes for this season.

First, Thanksgiving Day/Week games were dumped to allow an extra week of playoff contests during November while the season remained on schedule to end by the first weekend of December, and the season started a week earlier to accommodate the five playoff weeks. According to the NJSIAA schedule on its website, the playoffs begin the weekend of Nov. 2-3 and end the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

Second, teams that don’t earn a position in the playoffs will have an option to play two “regional crossover” contests, and teams that get bounced in the first round of the playoffs can play an extra “crossover” game to complete a 10-game schedule at some point during the remaining few weeks of the season.

If that’s not enough to confuse some fans, maybe this will do it – the NJSIAA is no longer ranking teams according to the old power-point system, but instead using that system along with another formulaic system, the Born Power Index (BPI), and combining them to generate the United Power Rank (UPR) for each team.

Interestingly, while the power-point system remains unchanged from the previous one used for many years, the BPI utilizes an “unpublished” algorithmic formula, developed by a retired math teacher, Bill Born, which allegedly was designed to also incorporate the strength of a team based on a number of factors, among other things. What exactly is calculated within that formula, nobody seems to know – not even NJSIAA officials.

In a report published earlier this week by nj.com, Jack DuBois, who oversees football for the NJSIAA, said it “has a handshake agreement with Born to use his system this season and that Born is not being paid.” Should the NJSIAA decide the new system works well, DuBois said, the NJSIAA may purchase the algorithm from Born during the upcoming offseason.

“The Born Power Index is an ever-changing mathematical evaluation of a team’s relative strength against similar competition,” read the NJSIAA football regulations, published on its website each season. “The index includes a blowout factor that rewards teams for doing well against stronger opponents and discourages running up the score against weaker teams.”

So, as the regular season nears its end this weekend, some teams on the cusp of a possible playoff berth basically have no idea whether they’re really on the cusp of making the playoffs.

“It’s very confusing to us coaches,” Barnegat head coach Rob Davis is quoted as saying in the nj.com report. “The formula is not transparent. We don’t know what it is. And we should know, as coaches, what we’re up against in terms of the playoffs.”

The Bengals, at 6-1, appear to be headed to the South Jersey Group II playoffs. They’re currently rated sixth in the section as they prepare to play Toms River South on Friday, Oct. 26. If the playoffs started this weekend, Barnegat would have played on the road against West Deptford (5-2).

But the confusing part cited by Davis is quite that – Barnegat has 123 total power points, with an average of 17.57, which somehow factors in with its BPI of 58.7 for a UPR of 11, sticking the Bengals behind 3-4 Cedar Creek’s UPR of 9.4 and 5-2 Pleasantville’s UPR of 9.2. Both Pleasantville and Cedar Creek have much lower power-point ratings than Barnegat, at 99 and 73, respectively.

However the BPI formula is calculated, the NJSIAA weighs it at 60 percent of the total calculation for the UPR, while its own power-point rating factors in at only 40 percent. Only the top eight teams in each section earn playoff spots for the first round.

As for Southern Regional  (3-4, power-point average of 7.86, BPI at 56.5 and UPR of 21), the Rams aren’t close to the top eight in South Group V, with 0-6 Cherokee sitting in the eighth position with a UPR of 15.2. Pinelands (3-4, power-point average of 11.57, BPI at 41.3 and UPR of 20.4) isn’t too far behind 4-3 Triton, which sits in the eighth spot of South Group III with a UPR of 17.

Heading into their respective games against Toms River North and Keansburg, it’s likely Southern and Pinelands won’t make the playoffs, but victories and a slew of other factors may yield a surprise come Sunday when the NJSIAA seeds the playoffs.

Wildcats, Rams, Bengals
All Score Victories

Evan Burton rushed for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Nik DiLeo added 52 yards on the ground and a TD as the Pinelands football team knocked off Colts Neck, 27-15, on Oct. 20. The Wildcats accumulated 294 yards rushing for the game, while the defense was led by Andrew Bartlett’s eight tackles, Connor Harris delivered six tackles, and Jack Lawrie and Aaron Harris each made five tackles. Garrett Brown also picked off a pass, and Bryan Mendez had a sack.

The night before, Southern scored a solid 28-18 win over Howell, as the Rams scored in each quarter for their third triumph of the season. Following TD runs by Joe Guglielmo, Thomas Barnett and Pat Scully during each of the first three quarters, quarterback Carmen Deo tossed a 34-yard TD pass to Matt Caporrino, and Hank Gallacher booted his fourth point-after kick of the game in the fourth quarter. Guglielmo, who also caught a 38-yard pass, led the Rams’ running attack with 64 yards, while Scully tallied 9 and Barnett contributed 54. Southern amassed six sacks on defense, led by Colby Saxton’s pair, and Luke Galan and Barnett each registered five tackles.

Against Point Pleasant Borough on Oct. 19, Barnegat scored all its points in the first half and held on for an 18-15 victory. Running back Charlie Cotton, who carried the ball 33 times for 149 yards,  accounted for all of the Bengals’ touchdowns, scoring on runs of 6, 7 and 3 yards. Quarterback Brian Finucan added 49 yards on the ground. Defensively, Brian Ewan led the way with 10 tackles, while Anthony Grimes contributed eight tackles.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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