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As September winds to a close, it is abundantly clear who the top two teams are in the Shore Conference and it is probably nearly as clear who the third-best team is. Those three teams have been in the top-four mix from day one and while the rest of the Shore has experienced some high and lows, those top three have been very stable, albeit with some wild wins as part of their respective seasons.

While some weeks are about sorting through the middle and bottom of the Top 10, this week is all about No. 1. Christian Brothers Academy will host Toms River North on Saturday, so by this time next week, there could even be a change at No. 1 in addition to the constant turnover in the rest of the field.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (7-1, 5-0) Last Week: 1

This is either the last week that there is any question that CBA is No. 1 or the last week of their run at No. 1. The Colts host Toms River North on Saturday in a game that will, in all likelihood, decide which team will be the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament and No. 1 in the rankings. With the exception of a 9-0 win over Middletown North, every CBA game this season has been a barnburner, so Saturday should be a memorable game.

Toms River North senior Mattia Assante (right) battles with Toms River East senior Cruz Chacon. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

2. Toms River North (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 2

It is nearly the end of September and Toms River North has still only played four games and they have all been impressive. The Mariners will pick things up this week with two games against the two Brick teams before travelling to CBA Saturday for the biggest regular-season game of the season in the Shore Conference.

3. Freehold Township (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: 3

Despite losing to CBA at home, there is still a lane for Freehold Township to at least push its way into the conversation for the No. 1 spot in the Shore Conference before the tournament even gets here. The Patriots have taken care of the rest of their schedule, including wins over Long Branch, Manalapan and Colts Neck, plus they will get a shot at Toms River North on the day of the SCT cutoff.

4. Wall (5-1-2, 3-1-2) Last Week: 8

It has only been three-plus weeks of games and it already looks like nobody wants to be the No. 4 team in the conference. Wall hit a snag in losing to Red Bank and settling for draws vs. Manasquan and St. John Vianney, but appeared to right the ship with a shutout win over Toms River East. If that is going to be the trend the rest of the way, the Crimson Knights are the most likely team to emerge at No. 4.

5. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-1-2, 3-0-1) Last Week: 4

Every team in the running for the last top-five spot has at least one questionable result, so despite losing to Middletown North and tying both Red Bank and Shore, Rumson hangs onto its top-five position for another week. The Bulldogs got a big lift with the return of junior midfielder Antonio Santos, but suffered a major loss when Luke Pentikis went down with a leg injury Saturday at Middletown North. Pentikis’s status for the remainder of the year is still undetermined, according to coach Jeff Soares, but will be out until at least the end of October.

6. Manalapan (5-1-1, 3-1-1) Last Week: 9

Unbeaten in six games since losing a one-sided opener to Freehold Township, the Braves continue to creep up the rankings with some noteworthy results. They beat a Red Bank team that has beaten both Wall and Holmdel, while also getting their own big win over Marlboro. It still remains to be seen how well a team that won zero games in 2020 holds up in crunch time but it’s worth recalling that the 2020 Braves did earn a 0-0 draw with No. 1 CBA.

7. Holmdel (4-2, 3-1) Last Week: 5

The Hornets have done some very good things and losses to Rumson and Red Bank are not enough to sink them, but there are some concerns starting to bubble up to the surface. Holmdel has scored 10 goals in six games and nine of them have come from one player – Brendan Worobel. Monday marked the first game a team shutout Worobel in a game, with the Bucs finishing up a 2-0 win.

8. Ocean (6-2, 2-2) Last Week: 6

The two Ocean losses are both tough ones in that the Spartans felt like they had the better of play in both but still could not find a way to get by Holmdel and Monmouth. They will have a chance to bounce back against a banged-up Rumson team on Wednesday night and a game vs. CBA next week will be an opportunity to make a statement, but Ocean’s chances at a top-four seed took a hit with Monday’s loss to Monmouth.

9. Marlboro (3-3, 3-2) Last Week: 10

The Mustangs are holding at No. 9 without any bad losses (CBA, Toms River North and Manalapan) and a strong win over Long Branch. Marlboro has just one game this week and although it is against a Middletown North team with a losing record, the Lions have proven to be tough in beating Rumson and taking Holmdel to overtime.

10. Long Branch (5-4, 2-3) Last Week: Not ranked

The Green Wave re-enter the Top 10 as another Class A North team without a bad result (losses to CBA, Freehold Township, Marlboro and Elizabeth). After a surprisingly ordinary season for its group of eight teams in 2020, Class A North appears to be back as the dominant division in the Shore Conference in 2021 and the rankings are starting to reflect it.

 

Dropped Out

Toms River East (4-2, 3-1) Last Week: 7 – Toms River East also does not have a bad loss, so the Raiders definitely have a case to remain in the Top 10. The difference, though, is that while Marlboro and Long Branch were competitive against top-five opponents, Toms River East had a tough time keeping up with Toms River North and Wall.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Lacey (5-0-1, 3-0) – The Lions are one of only two undefeated Shore Conference teams remaining and could take the inside track in the Class B South race with another strong showing this week.

Howell (2-4, 1-4) – Despite a losing record, Howell has been competitive against A North’s best and walloped Colts Neck in its lone out-of-division game.

Monmouth (7-3-1, 3-2) – The Falcons have padded their record against some overwhelmed opponents, but beating Ocean on Monday is a huge win that puts the Falcons on the Top 10 radar.

Middletown North (3-5, 1-3) – The Lions have some solid wins over Manasquan, rival Middletown South, and now Rumson-Fair Haven, plus an overtime loss to Holmdel. With a young team that is getting better quickly, Middletown North is on the come-up.

Manasquan (4-3-2, 3-1-1) – The Warriors are still in the running for a piece of the Class B North championship, although a loss to Neptune threw a wrench into that pursuit.

Neptune (5-3, 3-2) – Speaking of Neptune, the Scarlet Fliers have only lost to Wall, Colts Neck and Ocean and have cooled off the likes of Manasquan, Red Bank and Point Boro.

Point Pleasant Boro (7-1, 4-0) – Despite losing to Neptune over the weekend, the Panthers are still in great position to make a run at the Class B South title. This is a huge week on that front, with both Pinelands and Lacey on tap.

Red Bank (3-4-2, 2-2-1) – Red Bank has two huge wins over Wall and Holmdel, but has remained inconsistent. The Bucs may not crack the Top 10 prior to the postseason, but they have proven to be a dangerous draw so far.