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Extenuating circumstance pushed the Top 10 a few days, so welcome to a rare Thursday edition of the rankings (next week will be Tuesday and the following week will resume with Monday morning rankings). With more games factoring in, there is, naturally, more movement than usual this week.

That movement, however, has been reserved for the bottom half of the rankings and as things stand on Sept. 23, there are three teams that appear to be the class of the conference and even within that group, the top two have the clear inside track for the top-two rankings when it comes time to seed the Shore Conference Tournament.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (6-1, 4-0) Last Week: 1

The Colts picked up a huge road win at Freehold Township that might prove to be the game that wins them the outright Class A North championship, although there is still some distance to travel on that journey. CBA’s only loss was out of state and on a goal that came with one second left in regulation, so at this point, there is not a reason to drop the Colts from the No. 1 perch that they have occupied since the end of 2020.

2. Toms River North (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 2

While CBA has not faltered as the No. 1 team so far, there is some serious competition. Toms River North has been dominant so far, outscoring its three opponents by a combined score of 9-0. The Mariners are exceptional in the midfield and the back (including in goal) and to this point, scoring goals has not been a major issue against a schedule that includes Toms River East, Marlboro and Jackson Memorial.

3. Freehold Township (3-1, 3-1) Last Week: 4

Although it was a loss, Freehold Township acquitted itself well against CBA last week and its other two games have been 4-0 wipeouts of both Manalapan and Middletown North. The Patriots are lined up for a good test this week in the form of games vs. Long Branch, Middletown South and Colts Neck.

Rumson-Fair Haven senior Alec Pentikis. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

4. Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0-2, 3-0-1) Last Week: 10

The Bulldogs make this week’s biggest jump after beating Holmdel and Monmouth Regional. Rumson-Fair Haven entered the season with questions regarding its defense, but that has not been a problem to this point and Luke and Alec Pentikis have met the challenge as a returning, sibling one-two punch that is producing a lot of scoring for the undefeated Bulldogs.

5. Holmdel (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 8

The Hornets were not pleased with their scoring struggles during a two-game stretch against Middletown North and Rumson (they still scored a goal in each game and even won one of them) but got back on track by beating a talented Ocean side, 2-0, on Tuesday. Eight of Holmdel’s nine goals this season have come from senior striker Brendan Worobel, so while they have the hottest scorer at the Shore at the moment, the Hornets will be looking for some balance in the days and weeks to come.

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

The one-spot slip for Ocean stems from Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Holmdel, which makes the Class A Central division title race a very interesting one the rest of the way. No team in the division has a perfect mark at the moment and Ocean still has a game with Rumson on the schedule for Sept. 29 that could decide the title. Rumson handled Ocean twice last season by a combined score of 10-0 so the Spartans will be looking to turn the tide over the next two weeks in more ways than one.

7. Toms River East (4-1, 3-1) Last Week: 7

Since dropping a decisive 5-0 opener to unbeaten Toms River North, Toms River East has regrouped with four straight wins while holding the line at No. 7 each week so far. It is looking less and less likely with each convincing Toms River North win that the Raiders are going to get the help they need to get back in the Class A South race for first place, but there is opportunity for Toms River East to solidify its standing as a top-eight team in the Shore Conference Tournament picture and a high seed in the NJSIAA Tournament. That opportunity starts with a trip to Wall on Saturday.

8. Wall (4-1-1, 3-1-1) Last Week: 3

Speaking of Wall, the Crimson Knights take the biggest dive this week after opening the season at No. 3 and keeping that spot after one week. After running its unbeaten streak to 26 games, Wall slipped up in a loss to Red Bank Regional, then settled for a draw against Manasquan this week. Wall also needed overtime to get by St. Rose, so it appears the Crimson Knights are still working out some kinks, albeit with a deep roster that remains a dangerous team heading toward October.

9. Manalapan (3-1-1, 2-1-1)

It appears as though the Braves are back. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing – Freehold Township handled Manalapan in the opener for both and Middletown South handed the Braves a draw – but Manalapan is getting results in Class A North early on after going winless in 2020. The Braves have a win over a Red Bank team that beat Wall, plus wins over Howell and Marlboro, who each have a reasonable case to be considered for the Top 10 as well.

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

The Mustangs cling to their spot in the Top 10 by virtue of wins over Long Branch and Howell, plus a respectable showing at Toms River North in a losing effort. The Manalapan losses throws a wrench in any Marlboro plans to win the division title outright, but Class A North is full of landmines and a lot can still happen to make it an open competition again.

 

Dropped Out

Long Branch (4-3, 1-3) Last Week: 6 – Some injuries have made things difficult on the Green Wave, but they have been competitive in every game. All three of Long Branch’s losses have come against ranked teams (CBA, Freehold Township and Marlboro)

 

Top 10 Watchlist

Lacey (5-0-1, 3-0-0) – If not for a draw vs. Central, Lacey might have an undeniable case to crack the Top 10. As is, it’s still pretty good.

Point Pleasant Boro (7-0, 4-0) – It’s true that the schedule has been favorable for Point Boro so far, but the Panthers have been more convincing with each win. Pinelands and Lacey are on tap during a massive next week for Point Boro.

Manasquan (3-1-2, 3-0-1) – A loss to Middletown North and tie vs. Monmouth have Manasquan on the wait list, but an impressive performance in a 2-2 draw should have the Warriors excited about their prospects to win at least a share of the Class B North title.

Howell (2-3, 1-3) – The record is not pretty, but Howell has three close losses to team in the Top 10, including an overtime loss to No. 1 CBA.

Ranney (4-0, 2-0) – With a pair of solid out-of-division wins over St. John Vianney and Manchester, the Panthers are creeping closer to breaking into the rankings for the first time ever.