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The first week of the high school soccer season always comes with a few surprises and it is too early to tell whether those surprises mean there are teams significantly better or worse than expected or if the upset victims are still working out some glitches. So far, two teams in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 have dropped games to unranked opponents and another settled for a draw against an unranked team.

Other than that, most of the Shore’s top teams have looked the part, particularly the top four in the preseason rankings. It is still early, to be sure, and the second week of the season will offer major tests for three of those four teams (including a match between two of them) but it is looking like there is a clear top-four so far.

CBA senior Dylan Cupo battles with Long Branch senior Arturo Hernandez-Garcia. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior Dylan Cupo battles with Long Branch senior Arturo Hernandez-Garcia. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

1. Christian Brothers Academy (2-1, 2-0) Last Week: 1

The Shore’s No. 1 team already suffered its first loss, but it was to out-of-state opponent La Salle College of Pa. It was also a heartbreaker as the host scored in the final seconds to secure a 4-3 win over the Colts, who had answered La Salle throughout the game, but did not have enough time left to do it again. That loss followed a hard-fought win over Long Branch and an all-out rout of Middletown North in Class a North divisional play. This coming week for CBA opens with a big A North showdown against Freehold Township.

2. Toms River North (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: 2

Wednesday night’s opener against Toms River East was less a win and more of a statement for Toms River North, which overwhelmed a senior-laden Raiders team with high hopes in 2021. Factor in a losses by both Jackson Memorial (Jackson Liberty) and Toms River South (Lacey) to Class B South opponents and it appears as though Toms River North is in a class all its own within Class A South. We will find out for sure this week, when the Mariners play both A South rivals after opening the week on Monday with Marlboro.

Toms River North senior Jared Brown. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
Toms River North senior Jared Brown. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

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

Wall began its season with a couple of rivalry games – one a comfortable win and another an overtime nail-biter. The Crimson Knights went off for six first-half goals in an opening-day win over Neptune, then needed overtime to finish off St. Rose on Saturday night after trailing the Purple Roses, 1-0, at halftime. Wall is now unbeaten in its last 25 games dating back to the start of the 2019 NJSIAA Tournament and will look to keep the state’s longest streak going next week against Freehold Boro and Southern.

4. Freehold Township (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: 4

The Patriots’ opener went about as well as could they could have hoped, with senior striker Herman Colbert scoring two goals in a 4-0 win over a Manalapan squad with a fair amount of experience. Freehold Township is in the process of breaking in some new starters and new roles so for the Patriots to put up a four-goal shutout against a quality program is worth noting. The Patriots will get a good look at where they are at as a team Tuesday, when CBA pays them a visit.

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

In both of its games during week one, Ocean went to overtime to pull out victories. The first was a come-from-behind win over Shore despite playing with only 10 men on the field for the final 23 minutes of regulation and for the entirety of overtime, with Jake Schwartz scoring the winner. On Saturday, Ocean kept 11 men on the field and beat preseason No. 5 Colts Neck as the clock expired in the first overtime, with center back Dylan Gargulinski burying a 20-yard shot at the buzzer.

6. Long Branch (2-1, 1-1) Last Week: 8

Although Long Branch lost its opener at CBA, the Green Wave were tied, 1-1, against the Shore’s No. 1 team before a red card put them at a disadvantage, at which point CBA added two goals to finish the game off. Long Branch responded with shutout wins over both Middletown South and Monmouth to get its season rolling and will look to carry the momentum into the second week, which includes match-ups against Matawan, Marlboro and Barnegat.

7. Toms River East (1-1, 0-1) Last Week: 7

The season got off to an ugly start for Toms River East, which took a beating from Toms River North on Wednesday night. As they did in the second half of 2020, the Raiders responded in the next game by taking down four-time defending Class B South champion Pinelands two days later. The Class A South division title might be out of the picture after losing to Toms River North, but the Raiders have the makings of a tough postseason team if they can round into form over the next four weeks.

8. Holmdel (2-0, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Holmdel continues to prove that no matter how many top players graduate, the Hornets will be hard to beat. The season opened against a Monmouth Regional team with a lot of returning talent and Holmdel dismantled the Falcons, 5-0, behind a four-goal effort from Brendan Worobel. Saturday’s win over Middletown North wasn’t as easy, but it was again Worobel starring with a golden goal in a 1-0 overtime win at Middletown North. Rumson-Fair Haven will host Holmdel in a big A Central showdown on Tuesday.

Marlboro junior Max Rosen (right). (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Marlboro senior Max Rosen (right). (Photo by Paula Lopez)

9. Marlboro (1-0, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Last year was one to forget for Marlboro, which lost a litany of close games in a 2-9-1 finish. The Mustangs are already halfway to last year’s win total after taking out a senior-loaded Howell team in Thursday’s opener. This week will give Marlboro a chance to show how good it is, with the Mustangs taking on No. 2 Toms River North and No. 6 Long Branch on consecutive days.

10. Rumson-Fair Haven (1-0-1, 1-0-1) Last Week: 10

The first week was not an overly impressive one for the Bulldogs, which edged Red Bank Catholic and tied Shore – two teams that combined to go 4-23 a year ago. With that being said, it was an even rougher first week for some other teams in the Top 10 and while some other teams have emerged as contenders, there is still a lot to learn heading into Week 2. Rumson’s second week includes a huge Class A Central home game against Holmdel on Tuesday, followed by a local rivalry Saturday showdown vs. Red Bank.


Dropped Out

Colts Neck (0-2, 0-1) Last Week: 5 – After getting picked off by St. John Vianney to open its season, the Cougars missed some early chances before ultimately falling to Ocean in overtime on Saturday.

Jackson Memorial (0-1-1, 0-1-0) Last Week: 9 – Goals have been hard to come by early on for Jackson Memorial, although Evan Walenty earned his team a 1-1 tie with a late goal against Southern in Thursday’s opener.


Top 10 Watchlist

Ranney (2-0, 1-0) – After hammering Asbury Park, Ranney picked up a big out-of-division win against a defending NJSIAA sectional champion in Manchester by surviving a wild, 5-4, overtime game.

Manasquan (2-0, 2-0) – The Warriors pulled out two close wins over St. John Vianney and Freehold Boro teams that were at the bottom of the 2021 Class B North standings, but St. John Vianney’s win over Colts Neck adds some serious value to that first Manasquan win.

Pinelands (1-1, 1-0) – A loss to a Top 10 Toms River East team won’t bury the Wildcats, particularly after crushing Donovan Catholic, 8-0, in the opener. Ultimately, though, Pinelands will have to pick up some wins outside of Class B South, which the Wildcats have owned for the last four years.

Point Pleasant Boro (2-0, 1-0) – The Panthers are off to a hot start after taking out Manchester in overtime and smacking Brick. Point Boro had not scored four goals in two different games in one season since 2016 and has already done so in each of its first two in 2021.

St. Rose (1-1, 1-0) – St. Rose’s win (8-0 over Keyport) doesn’t make the Purple Roses any more of a Top 10 contender, but the overtime loss at Wall was a good showing for an experienced team with a chance to be a tough out in the Shore Conference Tournament.

St. John Vianney (1-1, 1-1) – After a tight loss to Manasquan, the Lancers bounced back with their biggest win in a while when they knocked off preseason No. 5 Colts Neck on a pair of Johnny Troiano goals.

Jackson Liberty (2-0, 1-0) – For the first time in program history, the Lions beat rival Jackson Memorial thanks to a goal by junior standout Gerard Cerino. A win like that is enough to make a season for Jackson Liberty, but with the potential on this year’s roster, the Lions will be thinking even bigger.


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