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The week between the Shore Conference Tournament and the start of the state team tournament is usually the least dramatic of the season. Division titles are usually all but decided and it’s more of a week used for getting ready for the final push or preparing individuals for their postseason.

This past week was no different, and the lack of movement in the top 10 will reflect that. The only matchup of ranked teams was on Thursday when Southern beat Brick 38-19 to continue its push leading into the South Jersey Group V tournament. The Rams were seventh last week while the Dragons were sixth, so they’ll just switch spots this week.

The final three division titles that had not been officially clinched were locked up during the week. Brick Memorial beat Lacey 60-9 to clinch the Class A South title, its 16th division title overall and first outright since 2001. Howell finished perfect in Class A North for the 10th consecutive year when it topped Middletown North, 42-19, and Point Beach secured the Class B Central crown by beating Keyport, 51-15, for its 19th division title.

The highlight of the week, however, was Point Boro’s 34-32 win over Point Beach in front of a tremendous crowd on Friday night. I was in attendance, and can say it was as exciting as any dual meet in I’ve watched in New Jersey this season. If you haven’t read the story or seen the videos, or just want to relive some great moments again, you can do so right here.

The final week of dual meets begins today, as 19 Shore Conference teams qualified for the NJSIAA sectional tournaments. As usual, the Shore has some heavy-hitters and should be able to get back on the board after last season where the conference did not have a Group champion crowned for the first time since 2003.

That also makes it the final push for the No. 1 spot in the conference. With so many possibilities for how this week ends, the final rankings could be over the place come next Monday. The only guarantee is that we’ll all probably be talking about the latest incredible moment from the team state championships.

 

 

1. Brick Memorial (16-1). Last week: No. 1

The Mustangs defeated Lacey 60-9 to clinch the Class A South division title. They are the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group V section, and finished ahead of Howell by one-tenth of a point. Getting the top seed was huge, because it means avoiding Southern in the semifinals. Brick Memorial will instead host the winner of fifth-seeded Eastern and fourth-seeded Egg Harbor Township on Wednesday in the sectional semifinals, then will get the Howell-Southern winner. Brick Memorial, which is going for its 15th sectional title and ninth group title, defeated Southern 32-28 during the regular season. The Mustangs have not faced Howell since the Rebels beat them in last year’s Central Jersey Group IV sectional final.

 

2. Jackson Memorial (16-4). Last week: No. 2

The Jaguars beat St. John Vianney 47-15 in their only dual of the week. They are the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV bracket, and face the winner of sixth-seeded Colts Neck at third-seeded Jackson Liberty in the semifinals. The Jaguars have already defeated their cross-town rivals this season, 52-13, on Jan. 15. It will more than likely be Jackson vs. Brick in the sectional final, and the Jaguars would love nothing more than to avenge a criteria loss to the Dragons on Dec. 31.

 

3. Howell (25-1). Last week: No. 3

An immensely impressive week for the Rebels coming off their loss in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. In a warmup for the state tournament, all Howell did was clinch its 10th straight Class A North division title with a 42-19 win over Middletown North, then rattle off five more wins that included victories over Hunterdon Central (43-21), Cranford (45-18) and Lenape Valley (54-12), all of which have a very good chance of winning at least sectional titles. Howell is the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group V tournament, leaving it with a very tough road to win its second sectional title and first group title. They will host the winner of sixth-seeded Cherokee and third-seeded Southern in the semifinals, and the winner of that match will more than likely have to win at Brick Memorial for a sectional crown. If the Rebels can make it through they would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Group V title.

 

4. Christian Brothers Academy (18-3). Last week: No. 4

The Colts defeated Ocean 53-15 and Freehold Township 45-24 in preparation for the South Jersey, Non-Public A Tournament. The Colts are the No. 1 seed, and will face the winner of fifth-seeded Bishop Ahr and fourth-seeded Paul VI in the semifinals. They are expected to reach the sectional final where a tough test will await in St. Augustine Prep. The Hermits knocked off state No. 2 Don Bosco Prep on Friday and are the defending sectional champs. The reality for either team, however, is that will be their final win of the season, because Bergen Catholic, the three-time defending Non-Public A champion and heavy favorite in North Jersey, has blown out the last three South Jersey champs and is ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

 

5. Toms River South (14-4). Last week: No. 5

The Indians picked up wins over Middletown South (47-23), Lacey (43-26), Marlboro (56-12), Jackson Liberty (38-21) and Matawan (59-18) to get ready for the South Jersey Group IV tournament. Toms River South is the No. 2 seed and will host the winner of sixth-seeded Moorestown and third-seeded Kingsway in the semifinals. The Dragons will be a tough out in the semifinals, and top-seeded Clearview represents a major obstacle in the Indians' quest for a second sectional title.

 

6. Southern (13-5). Last week: No. 7

The Rams are the team no one wants to wrestle right now, and closed out their run into the state tournament with wins over Brick (38-19), South Plainfield (30-18), Buena (45-22) and Williamstown (58-9). Brick, South Plainfield and Buena could all be sectional champions by Friday, and South Plainfield has a great shot to win all of Group III, so that's a great week for Southern. The Rams’ five losses have come to Jackson Memorial, Brick Memorial, Toms River South, Howell and Phillipsburg by a combined 26 points, so they are obviously dangerous. They host sixth-seeded Cherokee in the quarterfinals on Monday with the winner advancing to face second-seeded Howell. The Rebels defeated Southern 29-21 on Jan. 10. Southern is looking for its fifth straight sectional title, 10th in the last 11 years and 11th overall. Southern won its only group title in 2005.

 

7. Brick (17-4). Last week: No. 6

The Dragons fell to Southern, 38-19, to drop one spot in the rankings. They rebounded on Saturday with a 64-12 win over Toms River East where undefeated senior Dean Sherry picked up his 100th career win. Brick is the top seed in the Central Jersey Group IV section and will host the winner of fifth-seeded Northern Burlington and fourth-seeded Pennsauken in the semifinals. It’s all set up for a Brick versus Jackson Memorial sectional final, which would be a rematch of Brick’s criteria win on Dec. 31. Brick has three sectional titles in its history and was a Group III finalist last season.

 

8. Long Branch (17-4). Last week: No. 8

The Green Wave won matches against Monsignor Farrell (44-22), Central (45-24) and Asbury Park (68-6) on their road to the Central Jersey Group III tournament. The good news for Long Branch is that Group III is wide open, but even though the Green Wave have as good a chance as any to win a group title, the road won’t be easy. As the No. 3 seed, Long Branch will host sixth-seeded Somerville in the quarterfinals on Monday. Win there and they head to Cranford for the semifinals. Get through the Cougars and South Plainfield will likely be waiting in the sectional final.

 

9. Wall (14-3). Last week: No. 9

The Crimson Knights picked up quality wins over Raritan (45-25), Manalapan (40-24) and Caldwell (45-24). Senior Denzel Tovar won his 100th career bout during the victory over Caldwell. Wall is in nearly the exact situation as Long Branch, but in South Jersey Group III. The Knights are the No. 3 seed and host sixth-seeded Clayton on Monday, where a win will send them to second-seeded Highland in the semifinals. The winner there will likely meet top-seeded Delsea in the sectional final.

 

10. Jackson Liberty (18-6). Last week: No. 10

The Lions defeated Marlboro 53-22 and Matawan 58-13, and also lost to Toms River South, 38-21. Liberty is the No. 3 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV tournament and will host sixth-seeded Colts Neck in the sectional quarterfinals. The winner will face second-seeded Jackson Memorial, which defeated Liberty 52-13 on Jan. 15.

 

Dropped out: none

 

Teams to watch:

Raritan (12-6): Dropped matches to Wall (45-25) and Phillipsburg (56-6). The Rockets are the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group II tournament and will host the winner of sixth-seeded Middlesex and third-seeded Delran in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Middletown North (14-5): Swept a home quad with Toms River North (34-18), Keansburg (63-6) and Donovan Catholic (70-6). The Lions are the No. 5 seed in the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV tournament, and travel to face fourth-seeded Mendham on Monday in the quarterfinals. The winner gets a to book a trip to “The Pit” to face top-seeded Phillipsburg.