While there are some new subtleties to this week's top 10, they could very well pale in comparison to what is coming over the next two weeks. The end of the regular season and the start of the Shore Conference Tournament merge this week, which is going to give a lot of area teams a tough stretch of games over the next two weeks.

Only three teams got byes into the SCT round of 16 so there are plenty of programs gearing up for three important games in a stretch of five or six days. It is more likely the bottom of the top 10 is where the major change comes at the end of this week but with some big division tilts still on the schedule and the SCT round of 16 on tap for Saturday, no team is totally safe.

 

1. Holmdel (12-0, 5-0) Last Week: 1

After a week off, Holmdel returned to action with a 3-0 win over Middletown North for its 48th straight game without a straight-up loss. Assuming they get the game in and beat Red Bank Catholic on Thursday, the Hornets will be going for 50 in a row on Saturday against the winner of Pinelands and Toms River South in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16.

Freehold Twp. junior Zach Orrico. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

2. Freehold Township (9-4, 5-0) Last Week: 4

With a win over Jackson Memorial on Saturday, the Patriots have won five straight and ascended to the highest spot in the top 10 to date this year. On top of the Shore Conference Tournament on Monday and likely Saturday, Freehold Township has a huge game vs. CBA on Thursday that carries Class A North division title implications.

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

With Freehold Township rolling and holding a win over Marlboro, the Mustangs drop a spot in the rankings despite drawing the No. 2 seed in the SCT. Only Holmdel has been more consistent game-in and game-out over the course of the season, so Marlboro remains as much a contender as anyone in this week’s Shore Conference Tournament.

4. Christian Brothers Academy (7-3-1, 3-2-1) Last Week: 5

Few teams proved their worth more this week than CBA, which was on the cusp of upsetting the No. 1 team in the nation on Monday before the dam broke and St. Benedict’s scored twice in 30 seconds to steal the win. The Colts then followed with a hard-fought win over Manalapan and a dramatic victory over Seton Hall Prep Saturday at Montclair State. Inexperience will remain a question heading into tournament time but it’s getting more and more clear that CBA is a championship contender.

5. Wall (10-2, 5-1) Last Week: 6

After handling Colts Neck, 3-0, on the road, Wall can wrap up the Class B North championship on Monday night by beating Ocean. The Crimson Knights have had one substandard performance in a loss to Matawan and have been strong elsewhere, even in defeat against Marlboro.

6. Jackson Memorial (11-2, 6-0) Last Week: 9

All-in-all, last week was a very good one for Jackson Memorial. The Jaguars locked up their third straight Class A South title but beating Southern, 1-0, and became the first Shore Conference team to clinch an outright division title this year. Saturday’s loss to Freehold Township did not impact SCT seeding but it does keep the Jaguars behind the top-three A North teams and Wall in this week’s SSN poll.

7. Southern (8-2-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 3

Southern had built itself a nice case to be the No. 2 seed if it could have knocked off Jackson Memorial on the road this week. Instead, the Rams came up short in Jackson and then stubbed their collective toe at Lacey on Friday. With wins over Shawnee and Long Branch, Southern still has a lot of evidence on its resume that suggests the Rams are a serious threat, but they will first have to squash this current funk.

8. Long Branch (5-6-1, 4-2-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Sub-.500 teams don’t typically get the nod for the top 10 but it’s hard to keep Long Branch out at this point. The Green Wave started 0-2-1 and have since beat CBA and Freehold Boro while running up a 4-2 record in Class A North. In the team’s final game of this week, Long Branch gave unbeaten Elizabeth a good fight in a 2-1 Green Wave loss.

9. Freehold Boro (7-6, 2-5) Last Week: 7

Freehold Boro has run hot-and-cold from week-to-week and despite being cold last week, the Colonials remain a top-10 team thanks to wins over Colts Neck and Middletown South. Outside of A North, Freehold Boro’s only loss is against Wall and the Colonials will have a chance to build their reputation by beating Toms River East in the SCT opening round and giving CBA a challenge in the SCT round of 16.

10. Colts Neck (6-3-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 8

Colts Neck entered the week with a chance to win a championship and while that opportunity is not totally off the table, the Cougars will now need some help from Ocean, which plays first-place Wall on Monday night. With a draw vs. Red Bank and loss to Wall last week, the Cougars are now walking the top-10 tightrope, holding onto a spot thanks to that big road win over Jackson Memorial and a strong showing in an overtime loss to No. 1 Holmdel.

 

Dropped Out

Middletown South (7-3-3, 2-2-2) Last Week: 10 – Nothing wrong with the way the Eagles are playing (5-0-3 in their last eight) but Long Branch’s 4-2 mark in A North and big wins made a big push this week. The last time the Eagles reached the SCT semifinals, it was as a No. 10 seed in 2012 and they are No. 10 again this year.

 

Top 10 Watch List

Monmouth (10-2, 3-2) – Did not get the win vs. Manasquan, but the Falcons showed they are postseason-ready with good showings vs. Rumson and Manasquan last week.

Manasquan (5-5-1, 4-2-0) – The Warriors are in the SCT and have a dangerous roster as double-digit seeds go.

Rumson-Fair Haven (6-5, 3-2) – Rumson has been in every game, have already knocked off No. 2 Freehold Township and held a lead early against No. 1 Holmdel.

Matawan (6-4-1, 4-2-0) – If Matawan can play this postseason like it played the last two state tournaments, the Huskies could be a sleeper to be in the top 10 by next week.

Toms River South (4-4-1, 3-2-1) – The Indians are starting to figure out a winning formula, which will be put to the test in the SCT. If Toms River South gets by Pinelands, Holmdel awaits.

Toms River North (6-4-1, 2-2-1) – Since beating Freehold Township on opening night, Toms River North has had an unassuming year. With Manasquan as the first-round draw in the SCT, the Mariners can catch the Shore’s attention again by opening their postseason with a big win as well.

 

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