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Despite what had to be considered long odds, the 2020 soccer season has reached the final week of the regular season and it appears – despite the COVID-19 numbers trending in an unsettling direction – every team will at least make it through this week (weather notwithstanding). It’s a pretty striking accomplishment that teams are going to get more-or-less a full season in and, with a little bit of good fortune, a postseason as well.

Speaking of the postseason, most of the Shore Conference is gearing up for a very unique 2020 NJSIAA Tournament that will begin next week, but first, a few teams will try to settle some unofficial division championships. Toms River North and Southern will decide first place in Class A South with two games this week, while Colts Neck and Wall will compete for the top spot in B North as both also try to remain perfect on the 2020 season. Throw in Holmdel and Pinelands looking to cement titles in their respective divisions and Raritan, Brick and Rumson-Fair Haven jostling for the last spots in the Top 10 and there is plenty to watch in the season’s final week.

 

1. Christian Brothers Academy (10-0, 8-0) Last Week: 1

With another convincing win over a top-five team, CBA has just about wrapped up its case for the No. 1 spot in the SSN Top 10, which is a good thing because the Colts are unlikely to play another opponent with enough of a profile to change their standing all that much. With wins over Freehold Township (twice), Long Branch and Holmdel, CBA has as many wins over top-10 teams as any team in the running for the No. 1 spot, so as long as they don’t trip up in the final two weeks of the season, the Colts are the overwhelming favorite to finish No. 1.

2. Toms River North (12-0, 12-0) Last Week: 2

Toms River North closes its season with the two teams chasing them in the Class A South standings heading into last week and against the first of those two opponents this past week, the Mariners dominated Brick in two more A South wins. Toms River North is now 12-0 in Class A South with its biggest pair of games coming up this week. The top two teams in A South clash this week when Toms River North and Southern do battle, with the Mariners needing just one win in the two games to clinch first place in the division.

CBA's Jack Longo and Holmdel's Matt Kline battle for the ball. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

3. Holmdel (10-1-1, 9-0-1) Last Week: 7

Despite losing its first game of the season and (officially) for the first time since Oct. of 2017 over the weekend, Holmdel climbs four spots this week. The Hornets picked up their two biggest division wins of the season last week by beating Raritan twice and played a game vs. No. 1 CBA that resembled losses by Freehold Township and Long Branch to the Colts. The Hornets are currently a one-loss team with two wins apiece over Nos. 9 and 10 in the rankings and will be the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA section that combines the Groups I and II teams from the Shore.

4. Freehold Township (9-3, 9-3) Last Week: 3

Two losses to CBA mean Freehold Township doesn’t have a road to finish No. 1 at the Shore this season, but the Patriots are in a competitive enough NJSIAA bracket that they can climb up to No. 2 in the rankings by winning the South section of the Central East region of the NJSIAA Tournament – a bracket that includes Toms River North, Long Branch and Southern.

5. Long Branch (9-2, 9-2) Last Week: 4

Like Freehold Township, Long Branch has one win over the Top 10 field and it is a home win over Freehold Township. The Green Wave have handled the rest of their A North slate outside of a road loss to CBA and will head into the Shore section of the Central East NJSIAA region to do battle with Toms River North, Freehold Township and South. There, Long Branch will have a chance to ascend to a top-three position to end 2020 after reaching a sectional final and finishing No. 7 in 2019.

6. Colts Neck (12-0, 12-0) Last Week: 5

To this point, Colts Neck has not faced a team currently in the Top 10, but the Cougars did beat a Manasquan team that was briefly ranked No. 10 and did so convincingly last week by outscoring the Warriors, 12-1. This week marks the biggest test of the season for Colts Neck, which plays two matches vs. Wall with first place in Class B North on the line. The two B North front-runners are in different Group III brackets, so this week will be the last the two teams see of each other in 2020. If the Cougars keep putting up big goal numbers and winning games, they will have a fairly serious case to be No. 1.

7. Wall (12-0, 12-0) Last Week: 6

While Wall has not posted a goal differential that can keep up with that of Colts Neck, the Crimson Knights have stayed right with the Cougars with regards to winning games. This week, Wall will have a chance to jump Colts Neck when the two teams clash for first place in the Class B North division, with the Crimson Knights putting an 18-game unbeaten streak on the line – currently the longest unbeaten streak in the Shore Conference after Holmdel’s loss on Saturday.

8. Southern (11-1, 11-1) Last Week: 8

After losing to Brick a week prior, the Rams just barely avoided a slip-up against winless Central on Tuesday before burying the Golden Eagles in the second game of the series to cap the week. This week will be the biggest of the season for Southern, which will close its regular season by playing Toms River North twice with a chance to finish first in Class A South if it can win both games. Even if the Rams can’t win both, they will have a chance to make their case for a top-five spot by playing in a Group IV bracket that is also home to Toms River North, Freehold Township and Long Branch.

9. Raritan (7-2-1, 7-2-1) Last Week: 9

Two losses to Holmdel this week denied Raritan a chance to jump up in the rankings, but the Rockets don’t lose any ground either with two competitive performances against the Hornets. This week will be crucial for the Rockets when it comes to staying in the Top 10, with two games against Rumson-Fair Haven on tap. Whatever happens this week, Raritan is the No. 2 seed in the combined Group II and I section in the Central East bracket and can make major waves by winning the makeshift sectional title.

10. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-4-1, 6-2-1)

The Bulldogs climb into the Top 10 after hammering Ocean in two games last week, with wins of 6-0 and 4-0 over the Spartans. Those two results are the best Rumson has had this year and the losses the Bulldogs have endured – one each vs. CBA and Old Bridge and two vs. Holmdel – are against top competition. Rumson has a chance to climb with two games vs. Raritan this week and the state tournament could result in the Bulldogs getting a third crack at both Raritan and Holmdel.

 

Dropped Out

Brick (7-5, 7-5) Last Week: 10 – Brick’s resume is still worthy of being No. 10, but losing two games by a combined 9-2 score this past week make it hard to keep the Green Dragons on the list at the moment – even if the losses came against No. 2 Toms River North.

 

On the Bubble

Pinelands (9-1-1, 9-1-1) – A loss to two-win Point Boro and tie vs. winless Barnegat keep the Wildcats well below the Top 10 bar for now, but with the No. 2 seed in the South end of the Central East Group III section, Pinelands will have a chance to make a lasting statement in 2020.

Lacey (9-2-1, 9-2-1) – Lacey’s only losses are to Pinelands and the Lions could play their way into another matchup vs. the Wildcats if both teams can advance twice in next week’s state tournament.