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This week’s Shore 16 features the first major move from a team that was outside the rankings (albeit, not that far out of the rankings) jumping into the top five. Last week featured most Shore Conference teams playing two divisional games apiece and after another one-game week this week for most, the majority of the conference will be two division games away from settling regular-season champions.

Meanwhile, Shore Conference Tournament group play moves along at a deliberate pace thanks to more suboptimal weather this weekend. Even with some of the weather holdups, there should be another collection of teams to earn a spot in the knockout round this week as the bracket starts to take shape.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (5-1, 3-0) Last Week: 1

With only one game this week following a huge win over Delran on Sept. 17, CBA made the most of the down time and came out on fire Thursday vs. Middletown North. The Colts won the 2022 Shore Conference Tournament final rematch, 3-0, and now head into a big week that includes a chance to clinch the SCT Group 1 top spot vs. Jackson Liberty, a division showdown with Freehold Township and a high-profile clash with Toms River North – all at home.

2. Holmdel (5-0-1, 3-0-0) Last Week: 2

A draw vs. Howell and a riveting overtime win over Manasquan were outstanding, especially considering Stephan Kapranov did not play against Howell due to illness. While Holmdel is seemingly sitting pretty, the Hornets still have to get a result vs. Central on Saturday in order to lock up a spot in the Shore Conference Tournament knockout round – not an easy task considering Central’s hot start and senior-driven lineup.

3. Howell (4-1-1, 3-1-0) Last Week: 4

Four-game weeks are a rarity and unbeaten four-game weeks are even rarer. Howell started last week with a scoreless draw vs. No. 2 Holmdel, then won huge games against Middletown South, Freehold Township and Central. The Class A North public division title is still in play and a showdown with Marlboro this week will be an important game for the Rebels in that pursuit.

4. Southern (4-0-2, 3-0-1) Last Week: 11

The biggest jump in this week’s rankings belongs to the Rams, who got their first shot against a ranked team and did not squander it. Southern absorbed an early goal and outlasted Toms River North, 3-2, in a win over one of the Shore’s best teams. Southern is now in the driver’s seat in Class A South with another important game on tap for this week against Toms River East, not to mention an out-of-division test at Manalapan.

5. Toms River North (5-1, 3-1) Last Week: 3

A setback against Southern last week should refocus a talented Mariners side that still has time to come back in the Class A South race and the ability to make a deep postseason run in both tournaments. Toms River North faces a big week ahead, which includes a match vs. rival Toms River South and a trip to play No. 1 CBA on Saturday.

6. Manasquan (5-1, 2-0) Last Week: 7

Although last week ended with a heartbreaker of a loss at Holmdel, Manasquan validated its place squarely in the top 10 and approaching the top five in the conference. Before the overtime loss to the Shore’s No. 2 team on Friday, the Warriors handled a ranked Ocean team, then shut out a Shore side that was ranked through the first week of the season. The Warriors can nail down the top spot in SCT Group 3 Monday with a win over St. Rose.

Middletown North junior Josiah Stepney. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Middletown North junior Josiah Stepney. (Photo: Tom Smith |

7. Middletown North (4-2, 2-1) Last Week: 8

After dropping to No. 10 in the rankings, Middletown North has crept back up to No. 7 after scoring a win over Manalapan to open the past week. The Lions’ only two losses are to Toms River North and CBA, the latter of which came this past Thursday. It will be another big week for Middletown North, which will try to lock up a spot in the SCT knockout round Monday vs. Point Beach and will host crosstown rival Middletown South two days later.

8. Colts Neck (3-1, 2-0) Last Week: 6

The Cougars showed their ability to bounce back this week, dropping their first loss of the season against Steinert, the racking up a 7-0 win over Freehold Boro. The brother combination of Kyle and Sean Moore have been as good as advertised, with Kyle scoring seven goals in the team’s first two goals and Sean scoring six in the past three.

9. Marlboro (3-2-1, 2-2-0) Last Week: 9

The season did not start as planned for Marlboro, which went 0-2-1 in its first three games after opening the season ranked No. 3 in the SSN Shore 16. Since those first three games, the Mustangs have won three straight and head into a key match vs. Howell on Wednesday, which could open up the race for the A North public title should Marlboro knock off the Rebels.

10. Manalapan (2-3, 1-3) Last Week: 5

The Class A North schedule has been unkind to Manalapan, but the Braves can make up for it outside divisional play, particularly this week. Manalapan has both of its remaining SCT group-play games on tap for this week, one against Brick Memorial and another vs. St. John Vianney. The Braves will also host Southern – another chance for Manalapan to conquer a top 10 team.

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11. Middletown South (3-2, 1-2) Last Week: 10 – The Eagles drop out of the top 10 for the first time since opening week, but will have a chance to get back with big games upcoming against Middletown North and Ocean.

12. Central (5-1-1, 3-0-1) Last Week: 13 – Despite suffering its first loss, Central moves up a spot. The Golden Eagles might have a harder time advancing out of the SCT group stage than they will winning Class A South, although both will be difficult.

13. Freehold Township (2-4-1, 0-3-0) Last Week: 14 – Despite a losing record, Freehold Township has been competitive against top competition and handled teams outside the rankings.

14. Rumson-Fair Haven (5-1-1, 4-0-0) Last Week: 15 – The Bulldogs are 1-1-1 vs. ranked teams this season, with the overtime win over Shore representing the win. Rumson gets another good challenge from a ranked opponent this week when it hosts Long Branch on Tuesday.

15. Ocean (3-2-1, 2-2-0) Last Week: 12 – A one-sided loss to Colts Neck drops Ocean three spots, but the Spartans remain ranked thanks to an early win over Long Branch and a draw with Rumson.

16. Long Branch (4-2-1, 2-1-0) Last Week: 16 – The Green Wave have started to click after starting 0-2 and are already qualified for the knockout round of the Shore Conference Tournament.


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