I'm thinking Shawnee could beat Freehold in the Group 3 state semifinals and take out North Jersey dynasty Wayne Hills in the state championship game.

But I'll never know.

I'm thinking Glassboro could beat Central Jersey power Asbury Park in a classic Group 1 state semifinal and roll Glen Rock in the state finals.

But I'll never know that, either.

I'm wavering on whether West Deptford or Delsea could beat Manasquan in the Group 2 state semifinals. I'm confident Mainland could handle Sayreville in the Group 4 state semifinals and put away Piscataway in the title game.

But I'll never know for sure.

More important, the players and coaches won't get the chance to find out.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: It makes no sense that every athlete in every sport in New Jersey gets to play for a state championship except for the football players at public schools.

Holy Cross will play for the Non-Public 2 state championship Sunday against Hudson Catholic at Rutgers.

Gloucester Catholic and Camden Catholic would be playing for the Non-Public 3 state championship if the Rams had gotten past Immaculata and the Irish had beaten St. Joseph's of Montvale in the semifinals.

St. Joseph of Hammonton had a shot at another state title. Same goes for Holy Spirit. Bishop Eustace could have been there. Same goes for Paul VI, if only that small-college program in Non-Public 4 clothing - a.k.a. Don Bosco Prep - wasn't standing in the way.

The point is that those non-public teams had an opportunity. They will win a state title, or not, based on their performance on the field, not the "Road Ends" sign at the end of the sectional tournament.

In fairness to Hammonton in Group 3, Penns Grove in Group 1, and Southern in Group 4, there's no guarantee that Shawnee, Glassboro and Mainland would represent those groups in those fictional state semifinals. They simply are the favorites in this weekend's sectional finals. But that's not the point, anyway.

The point is that football players at public schools should have the same opportunity as tennis players, volleyball players, swimmers, wrestlers, baseball players and track athletes. They should be able to compete for a state title.

This weekend marks the state finals in non-public competition, including the Non-Public 4 clash between Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic on Saturday night at Giants Stadium, as well as Holy Cross' chance to win its second consecutive Non-Public 2 title against Hudson Catholic of Jersey City on Sunday morning in Piscataway.

The weekend also marks the sectional public finals in South Jersey, Central Jersey, and North I and North II. There are some great games on tap, including West Deptford at Delsea in a Gloucester County turf war tomorrow night in Franklinville, as well as Hammonton at Shawnee that same night and Penns Grove at Glassboro on Saturday afternoon.

Four sectional champions will emerge from each group. It's a natural setup for semifinals the next weekend, and state finals the weekend after that.

Too late? So start the season a week earlier. This year, that would have meant opening night would have been Sept. 5 instead of Sept. 12.

In that scenario, the sectional finals would have finished the weekend of Nov. 21-22, so that every team except the four sectional champions would have been finished by Thanksgiving weekend. That's better for winter sports, isn't it?

In that same scenario, two more teams in each group would end their seasons this weekend, in the state semifinals. Bottom line: Eight teams in the entire state - out of what, 300? - would have one more week of practice before playing in true championship games.

They're doing it in Pennsylvania, even as we speak. They are doing it in Texas, in Florida, in nearly every state.

Just not in New Jersey.

I have this theory that no title in sports means as much to as many as a state title. Sounds crazy after watching that Phillies' parade, I know.

But here's the thing: High school sports are the last time an overwhelming majority of athletes get the chance to represent their hometowns. It's the last time they get to play in the same program as their brothers or sisters or cousins or parents, with their old friends, in front of the same fans who watched them as 10-year-olds with baggy uniforms and big, bright eyes.

The pursuit of a state title is special.

And everybody in New Jersey high school sports gets the chance to make that dream come true except football players at public schools.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com.