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With the exception of a new No. 10 team and a flip of the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, the new Top 10 looks the same as it did a week ago, but there is some potential change bubbling under the surface. The No. 1 team has a vice grip on the spot but every other spot is rather tenuous, especially as some huge divisional showdowns approach, never mind the NJSIAA Tournament.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (6-0, 5-0) Last Week: 1

With schedule space limited this season, it is likely CBA played its one and only game against Long Branch this season and it could not have gone much better for the Colts. After handling Howell in two games during the week, CBA took care of the Green Wave on Saturday, 3-0. That now gives CBA two wins over Freehold Township and one over Long Branch – likely its two foremost challengers for the top spot in the Class A North division. There is plenty of depth in the division with teams like Middletown North, Marlboro and Middletown South awaiting their shot at CBA, but the Colts got through the toughest part of their schedule when they finished off Long Branch.

2. Southern (8-0, 8-0) Last Week: 2

For yet another week, the top two teams in A South are being evaluated on style points to determine which should be ranked higher. Southern doesn’t have Toms River North beat in any of goals scored, goals allowed or goal differential, but the Rams started the year No. 2 and haven’t done anything to deserve being dropped. They also have a pair of wins over Brick Memorial, which are stronger than Toms River North’s two over Central – the only difference in their two resumes (both teams swept Jackson Memorial, Toms River East and Toms River South). Southern also has the tougher draw this coming week with two against a resurgent Brick side.

3. Toms River North (8-0, 8-0) Last Week: 3

The Mariners have been nothing short of dominant this season, with just one of their seven wins decided by one goal and not a single second of game clock in which they have trailed on the scoreboard. On the numbers, they have been more dominant than Southern has, so that is their current case to be the No. 2 team at the Shore instead of their current position. With the championship mettle it showed last season, Toms River North might be the Shore team with the best chance to make a run at CBA’s No. 1 spot.

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

The week did not start great for Freehold Township, which coughed up a 1-0 lead in a 2-1 loss at Long Branch. The Patriots, however, bounced back with a strong showing at home, handing the Green Wave a 3-0 loss. With Long Branch going on to lose, 3-0, at CBA, Freehold Township again has a case to be ranked ahead of the Green Wave based on a 4-2 aggregate score in the head-to-head and a slightly better showing in its two games vs. CBA (4-1 in two games) than Long Branch had in its one vs. the Colts (3-0).

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

The Green Wave picked up a huge come-from-behind win over Freehold Township on Monday but lost its top striker in Lucas Da Costa for the following two games due to a red card in the final minute of the win. Two 3-0 losses later – one to Freehold Township and one to CBA – and Long Branch got knocked off their cloud and is likely out of the running for No. 1 in the Shore without plenty of help. With that being said, the Green Wave showed they still have a propensity to come back in games and once it has its full roster back, Long Branch again becomes a threat to finish first among the A North public schools and make noise in the postseason.

6. Colts Neck (8-0, 8-0) Last Week: 6

At some point, either Colts Neck, Wall or both will deserve a jump into the top five and there is a decent case to be made that it’s already overdue. As it stands, the Cougars will wait another week after dismantling Freehold Boro and shutting out Neptune for a 16-0 week of aggregate scoring against the three opponents. To this point, Colts Neck has played the four teams occupying the bottom four spots of the B North standings – Red Bank, Freehold Boro, Neptune and St. John Vianney – so once the Cougars prove themselves against the likes of Matawan, Manasquan and Wall, the jump will come.

Wall's Philip Lyons and Colts Neck's Jake Gershon challenge for the ball during a 2019 match between the two current Class B North front-runners. (Photo by Matt Manley)

7. Wall (8-0, 8-0) Last Week: 7

A sweep of rival Manasquan this week gives Wall a compelling argument to jump Colts Neck and to perhaps make a run at a top-five spot. Manasquan entered the week as the No. 10 team at the Shore and the Crimson Knights took care of the Warriors by holding them off, 2-1, under the lights on Monday and racing past them for a 3-0 road win on Wednesday. As with Southern and Toms River North and Freehold Township and Long Branch, the preseason ranking is still more of a tiebreaker than strength of schedule, but it’s getting closer to the part of the season when the resumes – and head-to-head results – win out.

8. Holmdel (6-0-1, 5-0-1) Last Week: 8

Holmdel’s perfect season ended with a draw vs. Ocean on Wednesday but the Hornets’ unbeaten campaign – both in 2020 and their 61-game streak dating back to 2017 – lives on. Wednesday’s draw against Ocean at home marked the first time this season that Holmdel has trailed and the Hornets responded by getting the game tied up and keeping the ball out of the net the rest of the way to earn a series win over the Spartans (1-0-1). Keeping the ball out of the goal has been Holmdel’s specialty, as the Hornets have conceded only twice in seven games.

9. Ocean (5-1-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 9

Ocean couldn’t end Holmdel’s unbeaten streak, but they did deal the Hornets a draw. The 1-1 tie was a nice bounceback effort by the Spartans after they were thoroughly outplayed during the second half of Monday’s 2-0 loss to Holmdel at home. After all of that, Ocean remains a one-loss team with a good early-season performance and two big games upcoming this week against unbeaten Raritan. Speaking of the Rockets…

10. Raritan (6-0, 6-0)

With Manasquan losing twice this past week, the No. 10 spot is open and the Rockets launch into position after rolling over Shore twice last week. The rub on Raritan in the early going is the strength of schedule: The Rockets’ wins are over Red Bank Catholic (0-7), Monmouth (0-7-1) and Shore (2-6), meaning staying in the A Central hunt will mean going through Ocean, Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven over the next three weeks. So far, though, Raritan has done all a team can do, going 6-0 with 27 goals scored and only three allowed.

 

Dropped Out

Manasquan (5-2-1, 5-2-1) Last Week: 10 – The Warriors were living on the edge with four overtime games in the first six, but they couldn’t make it that far in two losses vs. Wall last week.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Pinelands (7-0-1, 7-0-1) – The Wildcats had to scrape by Lacey for two wins last week, but they cleared a huge hurdle in Class B South and have still only allowed one goal all season.

Brick (5-2, 5-2) – The Green Dragons won the battle of Brick with two dramatic wins over Brick Memorial last week and are flying into two big games this week against No. 2 Southern.

Middletown North (3-3-1, 3-2-1) – An 0-3 start had a lot to do with playing Freehold Township twice and Holmdel and since then, the Lions are 3-0-1 with two wins over Middletown South and one over Howell.

Lacey (5-2-1, 5-2-1) – The Lions were right there in both games vs. Pinelands, losing in the last two minutes of overtime on Tuesday and losing on a penalty kick and despite a 16-5 shot advantage on Thursday.

Howell (3-3-2, 3-3-2) – The Rebels are the opposite of Middletown North, going 0-3-2 since winning their first three games, with Middletown North and CBA cooling the Rebels off over the past two weeks.