The time has come for a change at the top of the Asbury Park Press Football Top 10.
Red Bank Catholic, which had been ranked No. 1 for 26 consecutive editions, dating back to the start of the 2011 season, has been dislodged from the top spot,
Manalapan, which has been ranked No. 2 for the last six weeks moves into the top spot. It is perhaps the first time in Manalapan's history it has been ranked No. 1 in the APP Top 10. It is certainly the first time this late in the season Manalapan has had the top spot.
The reasons for the move are a combination of Red Bank Catholic's 42-7 loss at powerful St. Joseph (Montvale) in an NJSIAA Non-Public Group III semifinal and Manalapan's 17-7 win over Hunterdon Central in a Central Group V semifinal.
Making the change was not an easy decision. There are sound arguments for keeping Red Bank Catholic No. 1. Losing to St. Joseph (Montvale), which has defeated both Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep this season, is certainly no disgrace. Probably every team in the Shore Conference would lose to St. Joseph (Montvale), and probably in lopsided fashion. That includes Manalapan.
Red Bank Catholic also has the edge with the one common opponent it has with Manalapan -- No. 6 Middletown South.
Both Manalapan and Red Bank Catholic played Middletown South at Middletown South's "The Swamp''. Manalapan defeated the Eagles, 35-31, on Sept. 28. Red Bank Catholic recorded a solid 34-7 win on Oct. 26.
However, Manalapan is also the only unbeaten team remaining in the Shore. It has three wins over teams who are either in the Top 10 or have been in the Top 10.
The Braves defeated No. 7 Colts Neck and Toms River North, which was ranked for a good part of the season. Red Bank Catholic's only other win over a team that was ranked during the season was over currently unranked Rumson-Fair Haven on Thanksgiving Day.
With Manalapan unbeaten and playing for a sectional championship this weekend, the time is right to make it No. 1.
Manalapan will likely finish ranked No. 1 if it defeats South Brunswick at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Rutgers University in the Central V championship game.
Red Bank Catholic will likely finish ranked No. 1 for the the third time in the last five seasons if Manalapan is defeated in the Central V final.
There are other changes in the poll. With Colts Neck, Long Branch and Point Pleasant Beach, the No. 4, 5 and 6 teams all losing in sectional semifinals, Neptune and Southern each move up three places to No. 4 and 5, respectively. Middletown South, which defeated then-No. 4 Colts Neck, moves up four spots to No. 6.
This is the last regular season poll. The final poll will appear with the Asbury Park Press All-Shore Team on Dec. 16.
1. MANALAPAN (11-0): Last week: No. 2. Tyler Leonetti ran for 179 yards and two TDs on 22 carries and Mike Caggiano kicked a 30-yard field goal as the Braves defeated Hunterdon Central, 17-7, in an NJSIAA Central Group V semifinal. Manalapan has advanced to a sectional championship game for the second straight season and has set a school-record for wins. The Braves will now try to win their first sectional championship. Next game: Saturday at Rutgers University vs. South Brunswick (9-2) in the NJSIAA Central Group V championship game.
2. RED BANK CATHOLIC (10-1): Last week: No. 1. Larry Redaelli's 12-yard TD run gave the Caseys the early lead, but powerful St. Joseph (Montvale) scored the next 42 points and ended Red Bank Catholic's season with a 42-7 win. The Caseys will take a 24-game winning streak against Shore Conference opponents into next season. Next game: Season completed.
3. LACEY (10-1): Last week: No. 3. Christian Tutela scored three TDs, including one on an 88-yard interception return, and also threws a 61-yard TD pass to Bill Belford, but it was not enough as Kingsway ran for 458 yards and had two 200-yard rushers and defeated the Lions, 42-28, in an NJSIAA South Group IV semifinal. Next game: Season completed.
4. NEPTUNE (9-2): Last week: No. 7. Ajee Patterson threw for 296 yards and four TD passes to lead the Scarlet Fliers to a 28-21 win over Allentown in an NJSIAA Central Group III semifinal. Three of Patterson's TD passes were to Geoff Fairbanks, including a 76-yarder with 1:40 left in the third quarter. Fairbanks had eight receptions for 198 yards. The Scarlet Fliers will now try to win their second straight Central III championship. Next game: Saturday at The College of New Jersey vs. Nottingham (10-1) in the NJSIAA Central Group III championship game.
5. SOUTHERN (9-2): Last week: No. 8. Dan Higgins' 3-yard TD pass to Abe Gonzalez with 21.4 seconds remaining gave the Rams a dramatic 30-27 win over Eastern in an NJSIAA South Group V semifinal. It was Gonzalez's fourth TD of the night. He had TD runs of 54, 2 and 23 yards and rushed for 184 yards on 32 carries. Southern is making its first appearance in a sectional championship game since 2008 and just the second in its history. The Rams have never won a sectional title. Next game: Friday at Rowan University vs. Williamstown (11-0) in the NJSIAA South Group V championship game.
6. MIDDLETOWN SOUTH (8-3): Last week: No. 10. Kyle Brey threw for a career-high 302 yards and a career-high four TDs, Anthony Citarella had eight receptions for a career-high 205 yards and two TDs and Eli Smith ran for a career-high 240 yards as the Eagles compiled 587 yards of total offense and outlasted Colts Neck, 45-35, in an NJSIAA Central Group IV semifinal. It is the 10th time in the last 12 years Middletown South has advanced to a sectional championship. The Eagles also avenged an earlier loss to Colts Neck. Now, they will try to win their 10th sectional championship and first since 2006. Next game: Saturday at Rutgers University vs. Sayreville (11-0) in the NJSIAA Central Group IV championship game.
7. COLTS NECK (9-2): Last week: No. 4. The Cougars outstanding season came to a close as they could not withstand Middletown South's offensive explosion in a 45-35 defeat in an NJSIAA Central Group IV semifinal. Mike Campbell concluded his excellent season by throwing for 354 yards and four TDs. Two of the TDs were to Tim Vangelas, who concluded his standout season with eight receptions for 110 yards. Next game: Season completed.
8. LONG BRANCH (9-2): Last week: No. 5. The Green Wave were stopped on downs at the Nottingham 13 in the final minute as they were defeated, 7-0, in an NJSIAA Central Group III semifinal. Long Branch's defense was outstanding, but was burned on a flea-flicker in the third quarter for the game's only score. Next game: Season completed.
9. POINT BEACH (10-1): Last week: No. 6. The Garnet Gulls ran out of time on the Florence 10 yard line as their outstanding season came to a disappointing conclusion with a 17-14 defeat to Florence in an NJSIAA Central Group I semifinal. Jake Fioretti had TD passes of 16 yards to Andre Cochran and 26 yards to Nick Fiore in the first half. Senior running back Danny Tighe's superb season ended late in the third quarter when he suffered what coach John Wagner said was a possible broken bone in his leg. Next game: Season completed.
10. SHORE (9-2): Last week: No. 9. Mark Costantino Jr. ran for 122 yards and four TDs and Jake Monteiro booted a 25-yard field goal as the Blue Devils defeated Asbury Park, 31-7, in an NJSIAA Central Group I semifinal. It was the second time Shore had defeated Asbury Park this season. It is also the second time in the last three seasons the Blue Devils have advanced to the Central I championship game. Shore will now try to win the Central I championship for the second time in the last three seasons. Next game: Saturday at The College of New Jersey vs. Florence (10-1) in the NJSIAA Central Group I championship game.