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The early start to the season means tournament time is right around the corner. And while the season is more than half over, there are still plenty of important games remaining that will definite a lot of team’s years. The top four of Rumson, Southern, CBA and Red Bank Catholic has remain unchanged for the majority of the season, but the teams ranked fifth through 10th have been slugging it out week after week. Division titles and Shore Conference Tournament seeding will be on the line this week with the SCT cutoff on Saturday. For many teams, the time is now to make a run at a championship.


Shore Sports Network Top 10, 4/28/14


1. Rumson-Fair Haven (8-2): The Bulldogs are undoubtedly the top team in the Shore Conference, and the question remains as to which team, if any, can dethrone them. Their only losses have come to Summit and St. Augustine, a pair of top-10 teams in the state, and they own wins over No. 4 Red Bank Catholic, No. 7 Holmdel and No. 9 Manasquan within the conference. Rumson’s next major test probably won’t come until the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals.



2. Southern (10-1): Since a season-opening loss to Lenape, 8-6, the Rams have bludgeoned everyone in their path. The competition hasn’t been great, but you can’t knock averaging 15.5 goals per game during a 10-game winning streak. After a 15-1 demolition of Lacey, the Rams can wrap up their second straight Class A South title by beating undefeated Barnegat on Thursday.



3. Christian Brothers Academy (7-2): The Colts remain undefeated in the Shore Conference, but enter Monday’s big nondivisional game versus Red Bank Catholic off a 14-5 loss to a solid but not spectacular Princeton team. A win over RBC could push CBA to the No. 2 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. They can also wrap up the A North title with wins over Ocean and No. 6 Red Bank this week.



4. Red Bank Catholic (9-3): The Caseys played tight with No. 1 Rumson after falling behind by four goals early, and that could be a preview of a SCT semifinal game. The 9-3 loss to Rumson stands as RBC’s only defeat within the Shore this season, and their losses to Watchung Hills and Peddie are by a combined five goals. Monday’s game against No. 3 CBA is huge for SCT and state seeding purposes.



5. Wall (8-3): The Crimson Knights have dropped two of their last three, but their body of work, which includes wins over Red Bank and Colts Neck, gives them the nod in a tough pack to rank between five and nine. They can further their cause with a win over a tough Howell squad on Thursday.



6. Red Bank (10-3): The Bucs’ only losses within the Shore have come to RBC (12-11) and Wall (9-5), so they’re certainly on the cusp of the top-four and will be a dangerous out in the postseason. Their next three games - at No. 8 Freehold Twp., vs. No. 3 CBA and vs. No. 1 Rumson - are huge, and their outcome will give a glimpse into what to expect from Red Bank going forward.



7. Holmdel (8-3): The Hornets’ only conference loss is to No. 1 Rumson, so this could very well be entirely too low of a ranking for them. Their nonconference schedule is substantial, and includes a 6-5 win over Pequannock, but the Hornets haven’t played anyone in the Shore’s top 10 besides Rumson. That changes this week with road contests at No. 4 Red Bank Catholic and at No. 9 Manasquan.



8. Freehold Township (6-4): Wins over Wall and Howell have the Patriots at No. 8, but it’s been a puzzling year for the A-North stalwart. Injuries to Steven O’Brien and Brandon Nunez that kept them out early in the season obviously played a factor, but the team has been up and down since their return. This is a talented squad that could make plenty of noise in the postseason, but they haven’t fully put it together yet. Wednesday’s game versus No. 6 Red Bank is a chance to get on a roll entering the SCT.



9. Manasquan (7-3): So far, the Warriors have played to their ranking, losing to the teams above them and beating those below. Blaine Birch and Joe Murphy lead a solid squad, but one with some question marks. Manasquan doesn’t have a win over a team with a winning record, but has no bad losses. A St. John Vianney squad banging on the door of the top 10 and No. 7 Holmdel await this week, so there will be some answers.



10 Barnegat (9-0): The undefeated Bengals crack the top-10 thanks to being the Shore’s only unbeaten squad and by virtue of a hard-fought 7-6 win over Lacey. Barnegat will host No. 2 Southern on Thursday for a game that will basically decide the Class A South division title. How the Bengals fare against their toughest opponent by far this season will determine if they hold on to No. 10, drop out or skyrocket up the rankings next week.


Also considered: St. John Vianney, Colts Neck, Marlboro, Lacey.