For the second season in a row, the Bishop Eustace Prep football team has opted out of the Non-Public 3 state tournament.
The Crusaders have a 4-3 record and would have qualified for the tournament, likely as a No. 7 or No. 8 seed. That would have meant a trip to face No. 2 seed Pope John (5-3) or No. 1 seed DePaul (6-2) in the first round.
Bishop Eustace athletic director Tori Wishnick said the school declined to participate in the tournament because the non-public format features a state-wide competition instead of sectional play, as is the case for public schools.
Wishnick said that creates hardships in terms of travel and also forces teams to play against powerful and unfamiliar opponents from opposite ends of the state.
"For Bishop Eustace, it really comes down to non-publics not having a sectional tournament," Wishnick said. "So you get issues with travel and [a lack of]) rivalries. Our feeling is, put us against any non-public school from the South, and we'll compete."
DePaul and Pope John are considered two of the better teams in the state as DePaul has wins over Paramus Catholic and Don Bosco Prep, and Pope John has wins over Paramus Catholic as well as Malvern (Pa.) Prep.
Bishop Eustace opted out of the tournament last season and played Paul VI in a cross-over consolation game. The teams could meet again in a similar game this season as Paul VI (3-4) will not qualify in Non-Public 4.
"That game showed what a South Jersey sectional tournament could be like, big crowd, great competition," Wishnick said of last year's consolation game. "It's such a better atmosphere."
Bishop Eustace plays Highland (4-3) in a West Jersey Football League Royal Division game on Friday.
The Crusaders' decision means that Camden Catholic (6-1) will be the only South Jersey team in the Non-Public 3 tournament for the second year in a row.