The first week-and-a-half of the Shore Conference boys soccer season began with little top 10 turmoil, but that changed dramatically over the past week. All but three of the teams from last week’s rankings took a loss or a tie, which makes this week’s installment of the rankings more of an experiment than usual.

There are still some questions to answer that will make the top 10 easier to sort out: Which team is the A Central front-runner? Which of the top five A North teams will fall to the bottom five of the division? Can the upstarts continue to prove themselves? For now, though, more is up in the air than on the ground, even with a clear-cut top two.


1. Christian Brothers Academy (8-0, 5-0) Last Week: 1

Not much to clarify here. CBA is unbeaten against the most competitive schedule in the Shore Conference. The rest of the Colts’ games before the postseason will be against A North competition, so we’re not far away from starting with the undefeated talk. Then again, in A North, it’s a lot easier to talk about it than it is to do it.

2. Marlboro (6-1, 5-1) Last Week: 3

Considering Marlboro lost to CBA in overtime, there might be a narrower gap between No. 1 and No. 2 than there is between No. 2 and No. 3 right now. Marlboro is starting to round into form, going from a team that was winning 1-0 games a couple of weeks ago to a team that has scored six goals over its past two wins.

Senior defender Ryan LaRocca and Marlboro are gaining momentum heading into the final week of September. (Photo by Matt Manley)

3. Middletown North (5-0-1, 5-0-0) Last Week: 5

The Lions evidently learned from their 2-2 draw against Manalapan, when they allowed the only two goals scored against them over their first five games. Saturday against Middletown South, they gave up a 1-0 lead and quickly answered with the winner within the next 30 seconds. With Ocean’s loss to Wall on Friday, Middletown North is currently in the B North driver’s seat, albeit at an early stage.

4. Toms River South (6-1, 6-0) Last Week: 2

Although they are coming off a loss to a Donovan Catholic team that entered the match mired in a funk, Toms River South stays in the top five because there just aren’t that many teams that have the resume to take it away. Losses happen and Donovan Catholic entered the season with high expectations, so this is a situation in which one blemish does not undo the rest of the good Toms River South has done so far.

5. Ocean (5-1, 4-1) Last Week: 4

Based solely on this season, this ranking is giving Ocean a little more rope than teams with similar resumes are getting. The Spartans have just one loss – and overtime decision vs. rival Wall on Friday – but the strength of their wins are not any better than teams like Raritan, Holmdel, Matawan and even Asbury Park. Ocean gets a mulligan because, as previously mentioned, all teams at this point in the rankings have drawbacks and Ocean’s depth and recent success suggests the Spartans will remain a factor.

6. Toms River North (5-2, 5-1) Last Week: 7

Outside of a goal in the first two minutes, the Mariners played Toms River South to a dead heat and should feel good about their chances to catch up and win the division. Toms River North was one of the teams that caught a break and faced Jackson Memorial with Mike Schoener sidelined, but wins over Central and Southern are looking pretty good at this point.

7. Pinelands (7-1, 6-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Class B South did some serious work outside the division over the weekend, with Pinelands beating Ranney, Point Boro beating St. Rose and Donovan Catholic stunning Toms River South. The primary benefactor is the first-place team in the division, which is still the surging Wildcats, who have won six straight since losing to Southern on two late goals.

8. Freehold Boro (4-4, 4-2) Last Week: Not ranked

Since the return of Andy Rizo from an absence stemming from a hamstring injury, Freehold has played Marlboro close in a 1-0 loss, rolled through Colts Neck 3-0 and rallied to beat Howell 3-2. The Colonials’ newfound spot in the top 10 will immediately be put to the test as they have games scheduled against Freehold Township and CBA this week.

9. Colts Neck (4-3, 3-3) Last Week: 6

After beating Manalapan on Tuesday, the Cougars ran into trouble last week with losses to Marlboro and Freehold Boro – both lopsided, shutout losses. Colts Neck has been outscored 13-0 in its three losses, but a win over Freehold Township is proof that they can score against good teams.

10. Freehold Township (4-3, 3-3) Last Week: 9

Wall’s win over Ocean keeps the Patriots in the top 10 since Freehold Township beat Wall 3-0 on Sept. 17. The Patriots should get brownie points for playing CBA, Marlboro and Colts Neck competitively as they work in an entirely new lineup.


Dropped Out

Shore (3-1-4, 2-0-3) Last Week: 8 – A tough drop, for sure, but the Blue Devils remain strongly in the mix for a top 10 spot and a hot streak to bounce back from a loss to Somerville would get them back in the top-five picture.

Matawan (5-1-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 10 – The Huskies played a couple of overtime games this week against St. John Vianney and Raritan and survived both without a loss. A loss to Shore keeps them a tick lower than the Blue Devils in the pecking order.


Top 10 Watchlist

Raritan (6-0-2, 3-0-2) – The Rockets are still on the cusp of the top 10 after tying Matawan. The other contenders in A Central appear to be Matawan, Shore and Holmdel and Raritan has not beaten any of them yet with a game against Holmdel set for Tuesday.

Asbury Park (5-0, 5-0) – The Blue Bishops are for real and are waiting in the wings. If they keep winning, they will crack the list at some point.

Point Pleasant Boro (6-1, 5-1) – The Panthers are following their annual script. They got rocked by Pinelands, 4-0, in an early-season game and have since won five straight and are right back in the B South and Top 10 picture.

Holmdel (4-1-1, 3-1-1) – With a young roster, Holmdel is rounding into form in time enough to make a run at the A Central title and will get a chance to take a big step toward that this week with games against Raritan and Matawan.

Central (5-2, 4-2) – Outside of one-goal losses to Toms River South and Toms River North, the Golden Eagles have basically been spotless this year and remain a postseason sleeper.

Jackson Memorial (4-3, 3-3) – If Freehold Boro is going to get a push for improved performance with Rizo, Jackson Memorial should get a nod for losing two games with Schoener on the bench.