Boys Soccer – Jeep Store SSN Top 10, Oct. 19
In the first Top 10 since the preseason, it was the bottom three teams in the rankings that saw a major shakeup. Jackson Memorial, Marlboro and Monmouth have all struggled since appearing in the preseason Top 10 and Holmdel, Ocean and Manasquan have all performed well in replacing them in the latest version.
This week, it is the top-five that gets turned around somewhat and it’s not hard to pick out the pair of games that is the source of the shakeup. CBA returned to Class A North divisional play this week and took two huge games from preseason No. 1 Freehold Township – which opens up the floor for a whole host of teams to make their case for No. 1.
Beyond that change at the top, the second half of the top 10 remains unchanged, as all five teams held serve against opponents ranked well below them in the current pecking order. With some marquee matchups this week that could shape divisional races (Long Branch-Freehold Twp., Wall-Manasquan, Holmdel-Ocean, CBA-Long Branch, Pinelands-Lacey, among others) the top 10 could see some movement a week from now.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (3-0, 3-0) Last Week: 4
CBA returned to practice for the first time in two weeks on Oct. 9, beat Rumson-Fair Haven on Oct. 10, then knocked off preseason No. 1 Freehold Township twice this past week to continue the wild start to its season. Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Patriots was a convincing one for the Colts, who doubled up Freehold Township in shot attempts and won the game with two goals in a span of 47 seconds to break that broke a 1-1 tie in the second half. The schedule stays challenging this week with two matches against a surprising young Howell side and a Saturday showdown with Long Branch.
2. Southern (5-0, 5-0) Last Week: 2
The Rams have not done anything to fall from their preseason perch at No. 2, but Toms River North is breathing down their collective neck while Southern has had to rally several times to stay perfect. After erasing two-goal deficits in both wins over Jackson Memorial to open the year, Southern came back from a 1-0 hole to beat Toms River East, 3-1, on Wednesday. They have let some goals slip by but he Rams have proven to be a team that can flip the switch to score goals, which should make them dangerous against anyone.
3. Toms River North (5-0, 5-0) Last Week: 3
Unlike Southern, Toms River North has yet to trail in 2020 after turning in another impressive performance this past week. On Wednesday night, the Mariners handled rival Toms River South, 3-0, on the Indians’ home field and they have now outscored three noteworthy opponents – Jackson Memorial, Toms River East and Toms River South – by a combined 15-5 margin. Toms River North will eventually get its chance to jump Southern when the two meet during the second week of November but with the way the Mariners are playing, it might not take that long.
4. Long Branch (4-0, 4-0) Last Week: 5
After losing its opening-week series vs. CBA, Long Branch has come out strong to start 2020 with four wins against two quality opponents in Middletown South and Marlboro. Junior Lucas Da Costa has stepped up as a reliable striker for a team that had plenty of goal-scoring to replace from 2019 and Augusto Bontempo and Jason Laviola have been steady for the Green Wave in the midfield. Long Branch is set to embark on a huge week ahead, which includes a home-and-home series with Freehold Township and a Saturday trip to No. 1 CBA. If everything breaks right for Long Branch, the Wave could top this list a week from now.
5. Freehold Township (4-2, 4-2) Last Week: 1
Freehold Township’s chances to finish at the top of the Class A North pack in 2020 took a hit when the Patriots dropped two games to CBA last week, but they are not totally gone. A North is filled with tough opponents and while that certainly applies to Freehold Township, it also applies to CBA. The Colts are likely to play only 12 games in the division and if Freehold Township can win a pair of games vs. Long Branch this week and get some help from the Green Wave on Saturday at CBA, the Patriots would be right back in it. After losing an overtime heart-breaker to Long Branch in last year’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV opening round, however, it’s not likely Freehold Township needs the added motivation.
6. Colts Neck (5-0, 5-0) Last Week: 6
The Cougars have steamrolled their three opponents over five games thus far, with two wins over Red Bank this past week as the latest line on their resume. Colts Neck played tight games throughout last year but this season, the Cougars have scored at least three goals in each game and have outscored their opponents by a 20-2 margin in five games. To pump the brakes somewhat on the hype, Colts Neck’s three opponents thus far are a combined 2-15-1 and this week’s first opponent is a Freehold Boro side that is 1-5.
7. Wall (6-0, 6-0) Last Week: 7
Like Colts Neck, Wall has dominated the bottom-half of the B North division during the early part of the season. The Crimson Knights crushed Freehold Boro, 6-0, to start this week, then fought off a strong response from the Colonials in a 2-1 win that made it six in a row to start the year for Wall. The competition takes a step up this week, when Wall takes on currently-unbeaten Manasquan for a two-game set.
8. Holmdel (5-0, 4-0) Last Week: 8
With so much turnover from last year to this fall, Holmdel seemed unlikely to extend its state-best unbeaten streak through the end of the regular-season. Even if Holmdel finished first in the Class A Central division, there were too many quality opponents that could challenge the Hornets on any given day. Through five games, however, Holmdel is looking more and more capable of carrying its unbeaten streak – which currently stands at 59 – into the postseason after scoring big division sweeps of Monmouth and Rumson-Fair Haven. The Hornets will have another major test this week in the form of unbeaten Ocean, which is one of the four teams to take Holmdel to penalty kicks and one of three to advance against the Hornets during this current streak.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rumson-Fair Haven at Holmdel by Paula Lopez
9. Ocean (5-0, 4-0) Last Week: 9
The Spartans were on bye within Class A Central this week but got in a tune-up vs. Bound Brook, which it won, 4-2, to stay perfect on the year. This week, though, at least on of Class A Central’s teams with a clean record will get a blemish, as Ocean and Holmdel collide for a two-game set. The two decorated programs have become rivals over the years and this is the first season in which the two share a division. The current casts on both teams have not factored much into the rivalry, so this week represents a new chapter of sorts, with first place in Class A Central, a perfect record and Holmdel’s 59-game unbeaten streak hanging in the balance.
10. Manasquan (5-0-1, 5-0-1) Last Week: 10
There are several unbeaten teams that have a valid claim to fill the No. 10 spot and for the second straight week, the unbeaten team that gets the nod in Manasquan. The Warriors have not done it with dominance – they have already played four overtime matches and are 3-0-1 in them, with two extra-time wins over Matawan this past week adding to the current total. Manasquan will face its toughest challenge of the season to date this week, when it takes on undefeated Wall twice.
Top 10 Watchlist
Raritan (4-0, 4-0) – The combined record of the Rockets’ two opponents so far is 0-11, but Monmouth Regional’s 0-6 record is somewhat deceiving given who the Falcons have played. With two games against a young Shore side this week, there is a good chance Raritan rolls into next week 6-0 with a chance to move up into the top 10.
Brick (3-2, 3-2) – The Green Dragons have been one of the Shore’s more exciting teams, with 19 goals scored and 13 allowed in only five games.
Toms River South (3-2, 3-2) – The Indians could not keep up with Toms River North in their meeting this past week and will get another major test this week with two games against Southern, followed by one more vs. Toms River North on Saturday.
Pinelands (5-0-1, 5-0-1) – Pinelands had some trouble scoring over its first four games but set those struggles aside last week with two 4-0 wins over previously-unbeaten, but banged-up, Jackson Liberty.
Lacey (5-0-1, 5-0-1) – After settling for an opening-day draw vs. Lakewood, the Lions have rattled off five straight wins and head into a huge two-game set vs. three-time defending B South champion Pinelands this week.
Middletown South (3-3, 3-3) – After starting 0-3, Middletown South has ripped off three straight wins by topping Marlboro in overtime and taking two vs. Manalapan this past week.
Rumson-Fair Haven (2-3, 2-2) – While the Bulldogs are below .500, they have competed against CBA and Holmdel in their last three games and will have a chance to get back on track vs. Monmouth this week.