Boys Soccer – Howell, Manasquan, Middletown South Big Movers in First In-Season Shore 16
It has only been five days since the start of the season and the weather has already made a major impact on scheduling in high school soccer across the state. Extreme heat forced late start times and postponements on opening day last Thursday and lightning forced shortened games and postponements on both Saturday and Monday.
Despite the unpredictable weather, we have caught a glimpse of most of the teams in the Shore Conference and a number of them have impressed so far. With no team playing more than three games and three still yet to play a single match, there was minimal movement this week in the Shore 16: one new team joined the rankings, while one team fell out. The largest climb within the Shore 16 was three spots (done by two teams) and the largest drop was seven spots.
A loaded schedule of division games on Wednesday is probably the source for most of any movement that happens between now and the next Shore 16 on Monday, but the Shore Conference Tournament group stage will also provide some matches to watch before the next set of rankings.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 1-0) Last Week: 1
A loss at La Salle in Pennsylvania is not enough to know CBA from its No. 1 perch. The Colts won a hard-fought road game over Marlboro to avenge their last loss prior to the La Salle defeat on Saturday, giving them a 20-game winning streak before finally dropping a match. CBA got back on track by coasting to a 6-0 win over Neptune Monday in its SCT group-play opener.
2. Holmdel (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: 2
The Hornets were all set for a huge showdown vs. Howell on Monday, but mother nature had other plans. Lighting forced the suspension of the game in the 27th minute and the two teams will start over from the top at a later date. Holmdel handled Red Bank, 5-1, in its season-opener and played Howell even for 26-plus scoreless minutes.
3. Toms River North (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: 4
One would be hard-pressed to find a team that has been more impressive than Toms River North out of the gate. Manasquan is the only Shore Conference team with a better goal differential (9-1) than that of Toms River North (8-1) so far and Toms River North’s to one-sided wins came against defending Class A South co-champion Toms River East and a Middletown North side ranked No. 7 heading into the season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Middletown North at Toms River North by Ray Rich Photography
4. Marlboro (0-1, 0-1) Last Week: 3
With a loss to CBA, Marlboro falls one spot – more because Toms River North has looked too good not to move the Mariners up one position in the rankings. A scoreless 40-plus minutes for Marlboro vs. Toms River East on Monday in the first game of SCT group play will be restarted from the beginning and with fellow SCT Group 4 foe Freehold Boro looking like an improved team, both Marlboro and Toms River East will want to collect the three points against one another to avoid an anxious match with the Colonials – which, in Marlboro’s case, is scheduled for Thursday.
5. Howell (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: 8
Howell has taken the field twice this season and both times, lightning cut the game short while benefitting the Rebels. On Saturday, Howell had just conceded a Manalapan goal that cut the Rebels lead to 3-2 when lightning stopped the game in the 65th minute and, ultimately, ended the game. On Monday at Holmdel, the second lightning stoppage came just seconds after star forward Nick Turturro was sent off with a second red card – a penalty that will be reported, but will not keep Turturro out nor will it leave Howell a man short in the restarted match.
6. Manalapan (1-1, 0-1) Last Week: 5
Manalapan took a frustrating loss on Saturday, when the Braves cut Howell’s lead to 3-2 just minutes before the game was stopped in the 65th minute and ultimately called due to persistent lightning. The Braves bounced back with a resounding win at Wall in SCT group play, giving Manalapan the inside track at one of the 22 spots in the SCT knockout round.
7. Colts Neck (0-0, 0-0) Last Week: 6
One of only three Shore Conference teams yet to play a game this season, Colts Neck falls just one spot thanks to Howell’s win over Manalapan. The Cougars will open the season Tuesday vs. Lacey in SCT group play, followed by a big Class B North showdown Wednesday vs. an Ocean side off to a fast start.
8. Manasquan (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: 10
After overwhelming a young Neptune side at home in the season-opener, Manasquan delivered a real early-season statement Monday by steamrolling Freehold Township, 4-1, in Freehold. The Warriors grabbed a 2-0 lead just before the half and never let the defending Central Jersey Group IV champs get closer. The win makes Manasquan the favorite to win SCT Group 3, although St. Rose and Raritan make for a challenging final two group matches.
9. Middletown South (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: 12
The Eagles crack the top 10 with two huge wins to open their season. First was a come-from-behind, 3-2 win over Freehold Township in the season-opener, followed by another comeback win, 2-1, at Rumson-Fair Haven in SCT group play. The two wins were significant first steps for Middletown South in its pursuit of two major accomplishments: winning the Class A North public division title and qualifying for the 22-team knockout round of the Shore Conference Tournament.
10. Middletown North (0-1, 0-0) Last Week: 7
A 3-1 loss at Toms River North knocks the Lions down in the rankings, but not out of the top 10. After falling behind, 3-0, in Toms River, Middletown North showed some real fight to get the game to 3-1 while also playing without three starters, including all-division junior defender Ryan Barnao. Toms River North has looked like a machine so far, so there is no shame in the effort Middletown North turned in during its season-opener.
11. Southern (1-0-1, 1-0-0) Last Week: 11 – The Rams hold at No. 11 after handling Brick Memorial and battling Hammonton to a scoreless draw.
12. Ocean (2-0-1, 1-0-0) Last Week: Not ranked – The Spartans are the lone new team to break into the Shore 16 thanks to a win over previous No. 9 Long Branch and a draw at Rumson.
13. Freehold Township (1-2, 0-1) Last Week: 13 – Facing Middletown South, Point Boro and Manasquan is a difficult start for a team with eight new starters, but that is life in as team from Class A North that has annual championship aspirations.
14. Rumson-Fair Haven (1-1-1, 1-0-0) Last Week: 15 – There has been some positive (hot start for junior forward Charlie Butters) and negative (giving up an early lead vs. Middletown South) so far, but with an inexperienced roster, Rumson appears to be in a good place.
15. Shore (1-1, 1-0) Last Week: 16 – The Blue Devils started with an exhilarating win over Wall, followed by a frustrating loss to Middlesex. It is still enough to bump them up a spot.
16. Long Branch (1-2, 0-1) Last Week: 9 – The Green Wave gave up both goals in a 2-0 loss to Ocean while playing a man down, then lost in overtime at Westfield and beat Jackson Memorial while playing without its top two scorers. Long Branch is still in decent shape heading into Wednesday’s big match vs. Manasquan.
Wall (1-2, 0-1) Last Week: 14 – Losses to Shore and Manalapan drop the Crimson Knights out for the moment, but with a win over St. Rose and the loss to Shore coming while playing with 10 men late in the game, Wall is not too far gone.