By TIM KELLY
An extra point kick blocked and an extra point kick converted were two of the biggest plays in Ocean City’s thrilling 21-20 win at Long Branch in the South Jersey Group 4 football playoffs Friday night.
The Red Raiders advanced to their first sectional title game since 2000 with the win, a cliffhanger that came down to the final seconds.
Long Branch, the two-time defending Central Jersey section champ facing O.C. for the first time ever in football because of a change in the state seeding process, had taken a 20-14 lead with 10:36 left in the second quarter.
But the Raiders’ Brian Beckmann crashed through the Green Wave front wall and blocked the extra point try by Santiago Cortez.
OC Football wins 21-20!!!
Posted by OCNJ Daily on Friday, November 15, 2019
Ocean City opened the second half with the ball and embarked on a methodical 65-yard, 15-play drive to tie the game, highlighted by eight Jake Inserra runs, including a key eight-yarder to convert a third down.
Red Raider quarterback Joe Repetti also made a big fourth-down run to move the chains and capped the drive by running the final 11 yards to knot the game at 20-20. The drive also chewed up almost seven minutes’ worth of the third quarter.
Ocean City kicker Brendan McGonigle calmly booted the extra point, which stood up as the margin of victory.
“This group never quits,” Ocean City Head Coach Kevin Smith said. “They just keep playing hard.”
Things started out much differently for the Green Wave (4-6), who struck first in the game on a 36-yard Jermaine Corbett run and Cortez extra point.
Ocean City answered on Repetti’s eight-yard run to cap a Raider drive, his sixth rushing TD of the year. The Red Raiders surged ahead in the second quarter when Repetti’s tipped pass still found its way into the sure hands of Jake Schneider, covering 16 yards. McGonigle booted both conversions, the last one making the score 14-7 in O.C.’s favor.
The momentum was short-lived for the Raiders. Speedy Jayon Farrrar of Long Branch took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 84 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 14 with the point after.
The Green Wave took the lead before halftime on Corbett’s run, setting the stage for Beckmann’s big block.
“We didn’t play our best in the first half, but no one panicked,” Smith said. “I’m really proud of the way we re-grouped at halftime and played a great second half.”
Shawnee, the defending Group 4 champs, came from behind to beat top-seeded Millville, 28-26 in the other semi-final.
The Renegades scored twice in the game’s final minute and a half to earn the right to face Ocean City next week at their Medford campus. It was widely thought the game would be played next Friday night, but there was no official word on the date of the game, which could also take place on Saturday.
Also unknown was if the playoff final would impact the date of the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against Pleasantville, this year scheduled for Carey Stadium.
The situation was further muddied by a shooting that took place in Pleasantville during its Group 2 playoff game against Camden on Friday. The game was halted and not resumed following the incident.
At Long Branch, the Green Wave did not go quietly in the second half, despite losing senior QB Kyle Davidson to an injury just before halftime.
Sophomore Christian Rodriguez drove the Wave down to the Ocean City 15-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. A costly illegal procedure penalty pushed them back five yards and on a key third-and-six, Red Raider junior defensive lineman Matt Christy sacked Rodriquez with assists from Will Drain and Michael Rhodes to end the threat.
Ocean City’s players never let the 90-mile bus ride to Long Branch or the strange environs bother them in the game. They just kept playing.
“The coaches just stressed fundamentals and execution and being physical, and the kids went out and did those things,” Smith said.
And with that, Ocean City earned its shot at the South Jersey championship.