With just one more full week until the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff date on Oct. 4, there are still five undefeated teams in the Shore Conference and an emerging debate over who should be No. 1.

Holmdel opened the season with the toughest schedule and will have one more challenging week upcoming before the postseason. Jackson Memorial started with a light schedule that pick up last week and still has Colts Neck, Southern and Freehold Township before the start of the SCT. Marlboro started with some blowout wins and has just started to step up a level in competition while remaining perfect.

Those are the three contenders for No. 1 at the moment but Southern is the sleeper with some upcoming chances to boost their resume (Shawnee, Toms River North and Jackson Memorial).

Those sorts of debates exist throughout the top 10 but it is rare to have this many teams still hopeful for the No. 1 spot. It seems like it is going to be that kind of year in the Shore Conference and it could last all the way until the final day of the season.

 

1. Holmdel (8-0, 4-0) Last Week: 1

Holmdel’s unbeaten streak has climbed to 44 straight games and just like this past week, next week will put that run to the test. Coming off wins over Monmouth, Rumson-Fair Haven and Toms River South, the Hornets will try to keep it going this coming week against Matawan, Manasquan and Pinelands. Matawan has played Holmdel as tough as any team in recent years, Manasquan will be trying to grab a share of the A Central title and Pinelands would like to make a statement to the rest of the Shore after giving the Hornets a challenge last year.

CBA sophomore Declan Kelly goes up for the ball over Marlboro senior Max Shushkovsky. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

2. Marlboro (7-0, 4-0) Last Week: 5

The Mustangs climb from unranked in the preseason to No. 2 after another impressive week. Marlboro did not dismantle opponents like it had coming into the week, but the Mustangs scored two huge wins in the past seven days by beating both CBA and Wall, 1-0. Throw in a 2-1 win over Howell and Marlboro lived on the edge this past week, but the end result is a 7-0 start with wins over four teams (CBA, Wall, Middletown South and Toms River North) that have been ranked at some point this season.

3. Jackson Memorial (8-0, 3-0) Last Week: 2

The Jaguars slip a spot through no fault of their own; Marlboro has simply been that impressive. Jackson Memorial has obviously been no slouch either and this past week might have been the Jaguars’ best so far. They only played two games but they were on back-to-back days against two teams ranked in the preseason top 10. Jackson Memorial pulled out a thrilling overtime win over Manasquan, then turned around to beat rival Toms River South, 3-1, the following night.

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

It has been five years since CBA went winless in three straight A North matches and those three results – losses to Long Branch and Marlboro and a draw vs. Middletown South – could wind up costing the Colts the division title. With good teams up and down the division, the A North race is never over until its over and CBA is capable of running the table. Wins over St. Joseph (Pa.) and Washington Township still give CBA some resume muscle.

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

The Rams keep rolling along behind another standout season from junior Kevin Kiernan (nine goals in six games) and a strong defense behind him. One nitpick to this point is a combined record of 10-23-4 by its six opponents but that will change this week with big games coming up against Shawnee (5-1-1) on Monday and Toms River North (4-1-1) on Thursday. Brick on Tuesday is dangerous as well given the Green Dragons were the only team to beat Southern in A South play last year, so this is a week for the Rams to prove something to themselves and the rest of the Shore.

6. Wall (5-2, 2-1) Last Week: 4

Wall suffered its first two losses this week but showed some fight after giving up two goals on turnovers in the back third in a 3-1 loss at Matawan. The response was a big 1-0 win over Middletown North to keep pace in what should be a wild race for the B North championship. Even Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Marlboro had some positives for Wall, which had a chance to tie the game with a penalty kick that the Knights failed to convert. It was a missed opportunity to climb in the rankings but the past week should serve Wall going forward.

7. Freehold Township (4-3, 3-0) Last Week: Not ranked

The Patriots return to the top 10 thanks to a win over Freehold Boro to get over .500 for the first time this year and stay unbeaten in A North play. Freehold Township has its biggest week of the season coming up, with a visit to unbeaten Marlboro on Tuesday to open it up, followed by tough games against Long Branch and Allentown.

8. Colts Neck (4-1, 3-0) Last Week: Not ranked

The Cougars make their first appearance in the top 10 this year and this group and coach Art Collier deserve a lot of credit for their performance in the early going considering all the seniors they lost from last year’s Central Jersey Group III runner-up. Colts Neck’s most impressive showings so far are taking Holmdel to overtime and lopsided wins over Matawan and Neptune, and the Cougars can add to that resume this week with showdowns against Jackson Memorial, Ocean and Freehold Boro.

9. Middletown North (6-2, 2-1) Last Week: 8

Seven of Middletown North’s eight games this year have been decided by one goal and after winning the first five of those, the Lions have dropped a pair of close matches. It started with last weekend’s overtime loss to Steinert on a penalty kick and continued with a 1-0 loss at Wall on Thursday. Middletown North mixed in a 2-0 win over St. John Vianney earlier in the week and is still very much alive in a still-wide-open B North race.

10. Freehold Boro (5-2, 2-1) Last Week: 9

A four-game winning streak came to an end at Freehold Township on Friday but the Colonials showed some fight in turning a 2-0 deficit and overall struggle into a 2-1 loss that went down to the wire between the two crosstown rivals. A win over Middletown South keeps the Colonials in the top 10 for another week and they can further strengthen their case this coming week against Manalapan and Colts Neck.

 

Dropped Out

Manasquan (3-3, 2-1) Last Week: 6 – This is a far drop for the Warriors from the beginning of the season, but they have the potential to climb back into the top 10 next week with matches against No. 6 Wall and No. 1 Holmdel. Without winning one of those games, Manasquan might have to settle for being a dangerous double-digit seed in the Shore Conference Tournament.

Toms River North (4-1-1, 2-0-1) Last Week: 10 – The win over Freehold Township will keep Toms River North in the top 10 conversation and the Mariners still have a chance to do damage with games remaining against unbeaten A South foes Southern and Jackson Memorial.

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Middletown South (4-3-1, 1-2-1) – With losses to No. 1 Holmdel, No. 2 Marlboro and No. 10 Freehold Boro and a draw vs. No. 4 CBA, Middletown South has had to overcome a tough schedule to get to its current record.

Pinelands (4-1, 3-0) – There is still some schedule left to conquer, but if the Wildcats beat Barnegat on Tuesday, a lot will have to happen for them to be denied a third straight B South title.

Monmouth (8-1, 2-1) – The Falcons gave a spirited effort in losing to Holmdel and bounced back with a pair of wins (Raritan and St. Rose) following that first loss of the season.

Matawan (4-2-1, 2-1-0) – Since an overtime loss to Raritan capped the second week of the season, Matawan has rebounded with wins over Wall and Red Bank to get back on track.

Barnegat (6-0, 3-0) – The Bengals are jacked up for their biggest regular-season game ever when they travel south to play Pinelands on Tuesday with the B South title potentially on the line.

Raritan (3-3, 1-2) – With losses to Holmdel, Middletown North and Monmouth, the Rockets have battled tough competition and kept their head above water despite entering the year without a lot of varsity experience.

 

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