By Tim Kelly
Fans and observers of Ocean City High School football will tell you tonight’s playoff game at Delsea Regional is the Red Raiders’ biggest in nearly a decade.
The Raiders (6-2 overall, 3-2 in the West Jersey football league) travel to Franklinville, Gloucester County for a Group 3 first round battle at Delsea Regional at 7 p.m.
It will be Ocean City’s first action in the state football championships since 2008, and the excitement extends to head coach Kevin Smith, despite a 46-7 home loss last Friday against undefeated St. Joseph of Hammonton in its last regular season game.
“We did some things well, but we have to put (St. Joeseph) behind us quickly,” Smith said. “Let’s have a big windshield and a small rear view. It’s playoff week.”
The windshield view has Delsea (6-3 overall, 4-1 league) staring at Ocean City and presenting a formidable challenge.
The Crusaders are one of South Jersey’s legendary programs. When former coach John Oberg retired in the early 90s, he did so as the winningest coach in area history with a 230-67-15 record.
The current coach, Sal Martchese, hasn’t skipped a beat. The Crusaders have won four consecutive South Jersey Group 3 titles and have been to five straight finals.
They got off to a 0-2 start this year as a result of forfeiting a win on the field against powerful Timber Creek after using an ineligible player in that game. Since then, the Crusaders have been on a tear, going 6-1 and outscoring opponents 274-72 in their wins. They haven’t lost since a 42-35 overtime loss at Holy Spirit on September 29.
The high-powered offense is led by junior running back Aidan Borguet who has rolled to over 1,500 rushing yards in Delsea’s nine games.
But Ocean City has been on an impressive run of its own, winning five of its last six games in 2016 to build momentum for this year’s championship contention.
The league has noticed, naming seven Red Raiders to the All-West Jersey Football League first or second teams.
Quarterback Harry Pfeifle, who has 14 rushing touchdowns on the year, linebacker Tommy Meehan, defensive back Isacc Robertson, two-way lineman Arthur Spackman and defensive lineman Jimmy Rice were all named to the first team. Running back Liam Bergman and center Chad DiDonna were tapped for the second unit.
“I can’t remember when we had (that many) all stars,” Smith said. “That truly is a team accomplishment.”
Ocean City High School Senior Matt DiMarino provided OCNJ Daily with an exclusive up close-view of the team in his attached video.
Things won’t get any easier for Ocean City moving forward. The winner of tonight’s game will face the winner of the Timber Creek-Seneca next weekend. On Thanksgiving, the Raiders face traditional rival Pleasantville, currently 7-1 and a playoff team in its own right.