The Ridgewood football team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002, but the Rebels are in as good of a position as they have been in years to play in the postseason.
Ridgewood and Elmwood Park were members of the Metro Suburban last year before it added schools and split into two divisions for this season. Ridgewood and Elmwood Park, who are now part of the six-team Metro Suburban East, have been to the playoffs a total of 11 times since 1980. The division looks to have leveled the playing field among conference members.
“It’s a plus for us,” said Ridgewood coach Chris Zack, who’s been in charge of the program since 2006. “It puts us in a more competitive situation. We now have about the same amount of kids on each sideline.”
In the first conference game of the season Friday, the Rebels beat Elmwood Park 25-6. Ridgewood (2-3) is three wins from the minimum required to reach the playoffs. If the Rebels win out, they are guaranteed a spot in the postseason.
“We definitely match up better with teams in this conference,” said senior offensive lineman Paul Iannotta, who’s in his second season on varsity and fourth year in the program. “The last couple of years we haven’t done that well against the bigger teams.
“I don’t care who we play, but it is nice to think we have a bigger chance to win conference.”
During its eight-year run in the Metro Suburban, Ridgewood was the smallest school every season and compiled a record of 28-44. The new-look Metro Suburban came about because seven members of the Suburban Christian Conference were looking for a new home and the Metro Suburban was looking to expand. The merger came together in the spring of 2013.
“We wanted to add teams of similar size,” Zack said.
Former Suburban Christian members St. Edward, Guerin, Chicago Christian and Walther Christian are part of the Metro Suburban East along with Ridgewood and Elmwood Park. While St. Edward is 5-0 this season, Guerin, Chicago Christian and Walther Christian are a combined 3-12.
With an enrollment of 786, Ridgewood trails only Elmwood Park’s 993 in the Metro Suburban East.
“Going into this conference, we know the teams are more our size,” Zack said. “But our goal is to still take each week as a single-game season. But it’s nice to know the playoffs are an option at [2-3].”