Thoughts on the GMC/Shore Conference football crossover pilot program for 2009

With the Greater Middlesex Conference voting today to make the football pilot program between the Shore Conference and GMC, which involves the two conferences playing numerous crossover games, a reality for the 2009 season after the Shore Conference had already approved it, here’s some quick things:

  • If you want to see the tentative schedule of 2009 regular-season games between the GMC and Shore, you can view it here.
  • I give credit to the Shore Conference executive board for quickly addressing the problem in some way, so that games that don’t seem to benefit either side, like Red Bank Catholic vs. Mater Dei, don’t happen as frequently. They listened to the complaints of their membership and tried to address the situation promptly, which you rarely seem to get in governing bodies any more, so good job by president Kim Degraw-Cole and the rest of the board.
  • The Shore Conference is already really strong, usually sending anywhere from four to eight teams a year to state sectional finals. Will creating a “super conference” with the GMC, which is essentially sort of what this is doing, dilute that or help it? I don’t know the answer to that, so I guess we’ll see on the field. Division titles will still be decided between Shore teams, so it’s not like the crossover will effect that.

I like the idea, although I guess it takes a little bit of intrigue out of the Central Jersey playoffs because there is a good chance that teams will have already met during the season. However, that happens all the time in Central Jersey Group III and the games are still exciting in the postseason. You can never be mad about a Brick Memorial-Sayreville or Toms River North-Piscataway regular-season match-up given the rivalry that has developed between Brick Memorial and Sayreville the past few seasons and the power of the programs at North and Piscataway, so those are two great games right off the bat. Also, now teams will have less room to complain about a schedule that doesn’t give them a chance to get enough power points to make the playoffs if they go 5-3 or 4-4. Teams like Group II Rumson-Fair Haven that had to go 6-2 or better usually to make the playoffs because they play in the Group I-laden Patriot Division should now have more chances to grab power points.

I see they tried to match the programs that have been stuck in losing situations with one another and winning teams with winning teams, which makes things a little tricky. Does this mean every year that Shore teams are going to have to project how good they might be the next season in order to be properly paired up with a GMC team of somewhat equal ability and size?

As far as the “Who’s better, the GMC or the Shore?” argument, I could pretty much completely care less about that. When you can play to an overall Group champion in the state, then give me a call. This obviously will fuel that GMC-Shore debate and make for some trash talk between fans of both conferences, which means nothing to me. I think it’s more about giving teams a chance to regularly play schools of their own size and ability. I’m probably most curious to see if the fans from each side will make the trip if it’s a long one, which could lead to some less than thrilling atmospheres. It also is always interesting to see the Division I prospects from another conference to see how they might stack up against a talented counterpart on a Shore team.

All the Monmouth County schools have at least one crossover game, most of them have two and a handful of schools have three. Not all of the Ocean County schools have crossover games, but most have at least one crossover game. We’ll see if there is an imbalance between the conferences that lets some teams pad their record if they have more games against teams from the other conference.

The games that caught my eye, besides the two I mentioned earlier, are New Brunswick vs. Freehold and NB vs. Middletown South because of the talent and level of athletes that will be on the field in those games. Also, Shore vs. Metuchen and Shore vs. South River should be some kind of preview for part of the Central Jersey Group I bracket, and the same with Keyport vs. Middlesex and Metuchen. Point Boro vs. South River would normally be juicy, but South River’s program is not at its usual lofty height right now after a dismal season. Asbury Park vs. Highland Park is another Group I game featuring some exciting players. Colts Neck and North Brunswick will be between two solid CJ IV teams.

For schools in northern Monmouth County like the Bayshore schools and others, they are geographically close to some of their GMC opponents which could certainly start some nice new rivalries, rather than playing Ocean County teams that the fans don’t really care about.

All in all, I think it’s worth a try, although my gas tank and I’m sure the gas tanks of several families and fans are not going to be particularly appreciative of trips to Middlesex County. I’m sure there were more than a few groans from the assistants who have to go scout and film opponents every week about some longer drives to unfamiliar places. Nothing is set in stone for eternity, so if it doesn’t work out, maybe there is another solution after the 2009 season. There is no perfect system.

From my selfish sportswriter point of view, doing the Top 10 rankings is going to get even trickier because I will have to quantify what a win over a certain GMC team means in the scope of the Shore Conference, but obviously that is more a frivolous issue than anything major. Also, what will leading the Shore in rushing mean if a running back rolled up on three GMC teams but was average against Shore competition? These are little issues, but worth considering because we know how everyone goes nuts about All-Shore teams at the end of the season. This will only add another wrinkle to that decision. So, my apologies in advance to everyone who makes second team in 2009.

Two Shore Conference nondivisional games that will happen and stood out are Long Branch vs. Point Boro and LB vs. Manasquan, which should be circled on the calendar as well as Lacey vs. Freehold.

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