Throughout this 2018 season, the bottom-half of the top 10 has been in constant upheaval but the top four teams have remained relatively stable. That changed when Leo Montesinos headed in the golden goal in the 94th minute to beat CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game. The four teams occupying the top-four spots remain the same but the order looks a lot different than it has for the last two months.

1. Ocean (15-3-1, 6-1-0) Last Week: 4

For the first time this season, there is a new No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Ocean had not been ranked higher than No. 3 at any time this season but with two inspired performances to close out the program’s fifth ever Shore Conference Tournament title, the Spartans jumped the three other standout teams in the conference to take over the top spot. The race, however, is not over and Ocean will likely need a strong showing in the Group III playoffs to hold of Holmdel, CBA and Jackson Memorial and finish the year No. 1.

2. Holmdel (15-0-1, 6-0-0) Last Week: 1

It is not hard to make the case that Holmdel should still be considered the top team in the Shore Conference. The Hornets still don’t have an actual loss while the three other contenders for the top spot each have at least two. Holmdel is still the favorite to win Group II and if the Hornets are the only Shore team to take home a state title, that could very well be enough to push the over the finish line and end the season at the top of the rankings.

3. Christian Brothers Academy (15-4, 6-1) Last Week: 2

There were plenty of occasions during Wednesday’s SCT final in which it looked as though CBA was on the brink of becoming the Shore’s No. 1 team but the Colts just couldn’t quite finish a goal to win the game. With a loss to Holmdel and another to Ocean in the championship game, it might seem like a long way to the top for CBA, but beating out Delbarton for a Non-Public A title would have to make the Colts a serious contender for the No. 1 position.

4. Jackson Memorial (13-2, 6-1) Last Week: 3

Of the four powerhouse teams in the Shore Conference, Jackson has the longest shot to finish No. 1 but it’s not totally off the table either. The challenge for the Jaguars is that they don’t have a win over any of Ocean, Holmdel or CBA while all three have a win over at least one of the other top-four teams. The Jaguars can still steal the top spot, though, if they can hand four-time defending South Jersey Group IV champion Washington Township its first loss in the sectional final and go on to win a hyper-competitive Group IV. Jackson would also likely need Holmdel, Ocean and CBA to all fall short in their respective tournaments.

5. Southern (9-5-2, 5-1-1) Last Week: 5

Beyond the top four teams, there won’t be much movement from the last top 10. Southern edged Toms River East in the last official Class A South game for both teams, which cements the Rams as the No. 5 team at the Shore heading into the state tournament. Southern will have a pretty difficult draw in South Jersey Group IV which could include a third meeting vs. Howell if both the Rebels and the Rams win very challenging first-round games.

6. Manalapan (8-7-2, 4-2-1) Last Week: 6

The road to a sectional title is going to be a bumpy one for Manalapan, which has to play a strong Monroe side on the road and would then, likely, have to go through top-seeded Hunterdon Central in the next round. The Braves have been one of the Shore’s most resilient teams all year and it should surprise no one if they have a run up their collective sleeve.

7. Wall (11-3-2, 5-2-0) Last Week: 7

The next three teams in the rankings all have a win over one of the top-four teams and in Wall’s case, it was a 2-0 win over Ocean. That game was played after Ocean already clinched the B North title but it was a chance for the Crimson Knights to prove to themselves and everybody else that they have the formula to top Ocean. The two division rivals could be on a state-tournament collision course and would meet in the Central Group III semifinals if each of them can win their first two games.

8. Howell (10-5-1, 4-3-0) Last Week: 8

The Rebels are trying to rediscover the groove that launched them to the No. 4 spot in the rankings the week before the Shore Conference Tournament was seeded. Howell has a big win over CBA and went 1-0-1 vs. Southern with the draw winding up as a penalty-kick loss in the SCT. The Rebels could see Southern one more time and if they can win two games and get another shot at Washington Township in the South Jersey IV semifinals, they will have made a pretty strong case to finish in the top five.

9. Manasquan (10-6-2, 5-1-0) Last Week: 9

Manasquan has gone toe-to-toe with Holmdel, Ocean and CBA this season, even beating Spartans in September. The Warriors are going to have a chance to make a big splash in 2019 and what better way to get the ball rolling than by making deep run in a strong South Jersey Group II section? Bordentown, Delran and Haddonfield are all strong teams at the top of that bracket so if Manasquan can knock off Bordentown to get to the final against one of the other team, the Warriors will be making a pretty compelling case to jump a few more spots.

10. Colts Neck (9-7, 5-2) Last Week: 10

The Cougars are back in the No. 10 spot for the second straight week after tuning up for the Central Jersey Group III Tournament with a pair of wins. Colts Neck is 7-2 over its last nine games and will be on the favorable side of the bracket in their tournament. Although Colts Neck lost to Neptune during the season, the Cougars were competitive enough in the 2-1 loss to feel confident about a rematch in the sectional semifinals should both teams win the necessary two games.

 

The Next 10

Freehold Township (10-5-2, 4-3-0)

Marlboro (8-6-3, 2-4-1)

Toms River East (8-9-1, 3-4-0)

Pinelands (9-4, 7-0)

Lacey (12-3-2, 6-1-0)

Raritan (8-8-1, 4-2-0)

Toms River North (8-4-4, 4-2-1)

Toms River South (8-6-1, 3-3-1)

Lakewood (11-4-1, 4-3-0)

Neptune (12-5-1, 4-3-0)

 

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