The battle for the top ranking in the Shore is heating up and it’s not limited to just a few teams. At least seven teams are within striking distance of the top spot at the beginning of the last week in September and that won’t necessarily change after week filled with big games coming up.

With all of that being said, the top of the list looks awfully familiar and the bottom features three teams making their first appearance in the rankings.

 

1. Christian Brothers Academy (6-2, 5-1) Last Week: 1

The Colts took their first loss of the season Friday against Manalapan, but get a mulligan as the No. 1 team because of a convincing win at Don Bosco two days earlier. To this point, Class A North is still the most competitive division in the conference, so it’s going to take a little more to knock its first place team off this perch.

2. Shore (8-0, 6-0) Last Week: 2

The Blue Devils inched closer to the No. 1 spot in the rankings and in all likelihood, they are going to keep doing their part. Rolling through Class B Central is not going to move the needle any more in their favor than it already is, but Shore does play Rumson-Fair Haven just before the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff and because of that, the Blue Devils will have an opportunity to earn the top seed in the tournament.

3. Freehold Township (3-1-2, 3-1-1) Last Week: 3

CBA’s loss to Manalapan on Friday opened up the Class A North race again, so even though the Patriots played to a scoreless draw with rival Freehold Borough, it was a good week overall. Monday’s win over Manalapan was a must-have game to counter suboptimal results against St. Joseph Metuchen (0-0), CBA (3-2 loss) and Freehold Borough (0-0).

4. Ocean (6-1, 5-0) Last Week: 4

Rumson continued to win and Manalapan got the most favorable result of the week, but Ocean holds onto its No. 4 spot behind wins over Long Branch and Colts Neck before rolling through Neptune to cap the week. Monday’s huge Class B North showdown against Wall is a chance for one of the B North powers to move up in the rankings if said win ends up being the highlight of a big week.

5. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-0, 6-0) Last Week: 5

The Bulldogs have reached their ceiling for the moment after a meteoric rise over the last two weeks and that stems from the fact that they have been pulling out wins against decent competition rather than dominating that competition or beating top-level opponents. Like Shore, Rumson will benefit from playing the Blue Devils head-to-head, but the Bulldogs have a better chance to move up with an unbeaten division record since A Central has done fairly well out of division.

Manalapan junior Rocky Garretson scored a game-winning goal Saturday against Middletown North, capping a big week for the Braves. (Photo by Matt Manley)

6. Manalapan (4-2, 4-2) Last Week: 9

While Manalapan has a better win than four of the teams ahead of it at the moment and a head-to-head win over the No. 1 team, the Braves also have a loss to Marlboro and a head-to-head loss to Freehold Township as well. The win over CBA certainly catapults the Braves back into the discussion for the top ranking, but that line is still pretty long.

7. Wall (6-0-1, 4-0-1) Last Week: 6

If not for an own goal against Long Branch, Wall would have a nearly identical profile as Rumson, which is two spots higher than the Crimson Knights. That own goal is the only blemish for Wall this year, which has not allowed a goal outside of that one. The Crimson Knights will have a legitimate case for the top spot in the rankings with a perfect week, and would almost definitely jump into the top three.

8. Freehold Boro (4-2-1, 2-2-1) Last Week: Not ranked

A 4-0 loss to Howell aside, Freehold Boro has put together a résumé that compares favorably to every team listed in the top seven. The Colonials have a strong non-divisional win over Jackson Memorial, tied No. 3 Freehold Township and took No. 1 CBA to overtime. Games against No. 6 Manalapan and previously-ranked Marlboro will give Freehold a chance to move up come October.

9. Lacey (7-1, 5-1) Last Week: Not ranked

Like Freehold Boro, Lacey has a lopsided loss on its résumé, but has been stellar in every other game. Since losing 3-0 to Toms River North, the Lions have won six straight and just claimed two big victories over Brick Memorial and Toms River South to move into a first-place tie. As big as the division race is, a Monday game at Colts Neck might be the biggest game the Lions play during the season, not necessarily for them, but for the entire division. A loss to Colts Neck would leave A South teams without any key interdivisional wins.

10. Colts Neck (4-2-1, 3-2-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Colts Neck has been like Rumson in that the Cougars have played in close games all season, but with a slightly tougher schedule and not all of those results have gone in their favor. The Cougars’ two losses are 1-0 to No. 6 Wall and 2-1 in overtime to No. 4 Ocean, so their résumé to this point is built more on being competitive against good competition than it is on any standout wins. This week provides Colts Neck with a chance to pick up some big wins, with dates scheduled against Lacey, Long Branch and Wall.

 

Dropped Out

Long Branch (4-3-1, 2-1-1) Last Week: 7 – A loss to Matawan drops the Green Wave, which will play Colts Neck later in the week.

Marlboro (3-2-1, 2-2-1) Last Week: 8 – A loss to Middletown North drops Marlboro out for the moment, which is life in A North.

Toms River North (4-2-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 10 – An overtime loss to Jackson Memorial pushed the Mariners out for now, but the division is still wide open and the Mariners still might have the most upside of any of the A South teams.

 

On the Bubble

Matawan (4-2-1, 2-2-1) – A win over Long Branch has the Huskies back on the bubble.

Toms River South (5-2, 4-1) – A loss to Lacey snapped a five-game winning streak, which included a win over Jackson Memorial.

Jackson Memorial (5-2-1, 4-1-1) – Like last year, the Jaguars appear to be rounding into form in late September.

Point Boro (7-1, 5-1) – The Panthers are back in first place in Class B South and have won five straight games.

Monmouth (6-4, 3-3) – The Class A Central teams are bunched up after Rumson in the standings and Monmouth has separated itself with four straight wins and a second win over St. John Vianney.