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Shore Conference Football Top 10 After Week Five

We have our first real rankings argument of the season among the upper echelon of the All Shore Media Top 10 after Brick Memorial’s impressive 40-28 victory over Neptune in a match-up of unbeatens.

Brick Memorial charges to the No. 2 spot in the Top 10 after ending Neptune’s 14-game winning streak. (Photo credit: Cliff Lavelle).

The question is whether the Mustangs should jump from No. 5 to No. 2 and replace Neptune in that spot, or whether Manalapan and Lacey should both move up with Brick Memorial going up one spot to No. 4. I think you can make the argument both ways and have a solid case. You can say that Brick Memorial has the best win on the board after being the defending Central Jersey Group III champions, who will also most likely be this year’s Class B North champions.

The thing that I like about this dispute between teams 2-4 is that it will almost certainly be settled on the field. Brick Memorial plays Lacey on Nov. 2 in a huge game at the state playoff cutoff. Also, Brick Memorial and Manalapan are both in the Central Jersey Group V bracket, so there is certainly a chance they could see each other in the state playoffs.

Another interesting question comes if Brick Memorial continues to rack up victories over Top 10 teams. If the Mustangs beat Toms River North, Southern and Lacey, the chorus will really start to grow that they should jump over Red Bank Catholic to No. 1 on strength of schedule. I’m sure Brick Memorial would love to have that problem.

For now, it’s just a fun debate, and one that will hopefully resolve itself in the coming weeks. Remember, it’s all about championships. Teams have reunions and are honored by their high school for bringing home the hardware, not because they finished No. 2 in some sportswriter’s top 10.

All Shore Media Top 10

  1. Red Bank Catholic (5-0) – Last week: No. 1.

The Caseys keep grinding opponents to dust as they took a 28-0 win over Freehold for their sixth straight win and their 19th in a row against Shore Conference competition. Junior tailback Larry Redaelli ran for a pair of scores, senior James Taylor returned a kick for a touchdown for the third straight week, and the defense registered its third shutout in five games. The Caseys now have Holmdel (3-2) this week in Class A Central, but the big one is looming on Oct. 26 at The Swamp. RBC goes to play a very solid Middletown South team, and that is the Caseys’ main chance to make a statement after cruising through most of the regular season. It also is a common opponent with Manalapan, so that should shed some light on where these teams stand in relation to one another.

 2. Brick Memorial (5-0) – Last week: No. 5.

I am making the leap with the Mustangs after their impressive 40-28 win over last week’s No. 2, Neptune, which ended the Scarlet Fliers’ 14-game winning streak. The Mustangs are averaging just under 40 points per game and have basically not been stopped by anyone this year. Senior Ryan Cieplenski is an All-Shore front-runner at quarterback and finished with 348 total yards of offense and a combined five touchdowns in the win over Neptune. Junior Jake Lombardo added three sacks as Brick Memorial won the second half 19-0 after trailing at the break. The challenges keep coming as the Mustangs travel to No. 7 Toms River North on Friday night for a key Class A South showdown against a Mariners team hungry to get right back in the mix for a division title.

 3. Manalapan (4-0) – Last week: No. 3.

The Braves had their bye week and return with a nonconference game against winless East Brunswick on Friday night. They should cruise through that to set up a big Class A North game against currently unbeaten Colts Neck that looks to be the Braves’ final hurdle toward wrapping up a school-record third straight division title. Another game to keep an eye on is Toms River North at Manalapan on Oct. 26. Brick Memorial will play the Mariners this week, so this gives these teams a common opponent in the argument over which squad is better.

4. Lacey (5-0) – Last week: No. 4.

I could see Lions fans, just like Manalapan fans, having a gripe over the Brick Memorial move, but if you’re comparing two undefeated teams, Memorial has the most quality win right now. Plus, Lacey has the opportunity to prove it on the field when it faces Brick Memorial on Nov. 2. The Lions are coming off a 54-0 victory over winless Manchester in which senior tailback Kyle Spatz ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns on only six carries. Before Lacey can worry about the likes of Brick Memorial, it will have its hands full with No. 9 Southern in a crucial Class A South game on the road Saturday. The Lions roar into the game averaging a Shore Conference-best 46.6 points per game.

5. Neptune (4-1) – Last week: No. 2.

The Scarlet Fliers dropped a 40-28 nondivisional game to Brick Memorial that ended their 14-game winning streak. Senior quarterback Ajee Patterson had 325 total yards, including 272 yards passing, and accounted for four total touchdowns in the loss to the Mustangs. I am essentially having the two teams swap their spots in the top 10. There is still a good chance that Neptune could run the table from here on out, although I think Long Branch will have something to say about that in the state playoffs in addition to other nonconference contenders.

6. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0) – Last week: No. 6.

The Bulldogs had a much-needed bye week to get some key players healthy and return to action with a Class A Central game against winless Raritan on Friday night. They have an interesting nondivisional game the following week against Class B South leader Monsignor Donovan. The Bulldogs will be favored in every game leading up the playoffs and could be 8-0 when they begin their quest for a second Central Jersey Group II title in three years.

7. Toms River North (3-1) – Last week: No. 7.

The Mariners have had two weeks to prepare for a huge Class A South game at home on Friday night against newly-minted No. 2 Brick Memorial. Toms River North has to have this game to give itself a shot at a piece of the division title, but it’s also a big power-point game that could swing the Mariners’ seeding in South Jersey Group V.

 8. Middletown South (3-1) – Last week: No. 8.

The Eagles roared back from their first loss by rolling over Manasquan, 42-13, in a nondivisional game thanks to three touchdown passes and a touchdown run by junior quarterback Kyle Brey. They host winless Freehold Township on Friday night and then play Marlboro before an anticipated nondivisional showdown against No. 1 Red Bank Catholic on Oct. 26.

 9. Southern (3-1) – Last week: No. 9.

The Rams have had two weeks to prepare to face No. 4 Lacey at home on Saturday in a crucial Class A South game. If Southern has any hope of defending its division title from last year, it has to win this game. It should be a festive atmosphere at Southern’s homecoming, and the Rams will have to find a way to slow down an offense that enters averaging just under 47 points per game. The bye week was also key to get some guys rested and healthy on a team that has been beset by injuries since the preseason.

 10. Long Branch (4-1) – Last week: No. 10.

The Green Wave romped 62-0 over Pinelands thanks to two touchdowns apiece by running backs Joscil Jackson and Deon Williams. The Green Wave are at Freehold (1-3) in a Class B North game this week and are getting closer to having their full arsenal with senior tailback Dwight Clark getting healthy from a broken bone in his ankle suffered in the preseason. The hope is that the Green Wave will have a flat-out frightening, three-headed rushing attack that will make them a major factor in the Central Jersey Group III playoffs.

Dropped out: None.

Teams to watch:

Colts Neck (4-0): The Cougars are coming off their bye week and are 4-0 for the first time in program history. To me, these next two weeks are a defining stretch for this team. They face a dangerous St. John Vianney squad this week and then have a showdown in Class A North against No. 3 Manalapan a week later. That is their chance to validate their hot start. The Cougars are tied with RBC and Point Beach for the longest current winning streak in the Shore at six games.

Point Beach (5-0): The Garnet Gulls turned in an impressive 54-20 win over Asbury Park in Class B Central in which senior Danny Tighe ran for 192 yards and scored three times as Point Beach racked up 345 yards rushing on the way to their sixth straight win. They now have a much-improved Keansburg (4-1) team this week. Looking at their schedule, it’s not crazy to think this team could go 12-0, but there’s a good chance it will take two hard-fought victories over Shore Regional to do it. Still, the turnaround of this program in the last two years has been remarkable.

Shore (4-1): The Blue Devils pulled out a 14-13 overtime win against Group III Holmdel to net a bushel of power points in their quest for the top seed in Central Jersey Group I. Jack Kelly ran for one touchdown and Matt Muh threw another one in overtime before Holmdel missed the extra point after its touchdown to give Shore the win. The defense continues to be stingy, and it’s looking more and more like it will be the Blue Devils and Point Beach for all the marbles in the division and the state playoffs. Shore now has its bye week and then returns against winless Mater Dei Prep on Oct. 20.

Matawan (3-1): The Huskies had their bye week after absorbing a 36-point loss to Neptune and look to get back on track when they face Wall (2-3) in a Class B North game at home this week.

St. John Vianney (2-2): The Lancers’ two losses are to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic and No. 6 Rumson-Fair Haven, and their 40-point win over Monsignor Donovan is looking better by the week considering the Griffins are alone in first place in Class B South and have not lost since. St. John Vianney can bolster its argument to push for a top 10 spot when it faces unbeaten Colts Neck in a nondivisional game at home on Friday night.

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