By TIM KELLY
The Ocean City High School football season was one for the books. The record books.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Raiders completed a 7-2 regular season and a 9-3 campaign overall, for the most wins in 18 years.
Their two playoff wins were the most in program history combined since 2002, Head Coach Kevin Smith said.
“This is a great bunch of kids,” Smith said following the Turkey Day win, a 26-0 defeat of 8-2 Pleasantville, their fifth shutout of the year and the most in 36 years. “They genuinely care about each other.”
The Red Raiders played only four home games all year but enjoyed a tremendous home field advantage. They went 4-0 at Carey Stadium and outscored opponents there 164-6.
They opened the season with shutout victories over Lower Cape May, Egg Harbor Township, Bridgeton and Absegami before finally falling to St. Augustine. Both at home on the road, the Raiders enjoyed tremendous support with large crowds turning out despite several long distance road games and some rough weather.
“It was a great showing by Raider Nation, and the fan support was tremendous all year,” said Smith.
In the playoffs, Ocean City was the seventh-seeded team in the Group 4 tournament, meaning the Raiders were forced to go on the road for all three games. They were the lowest-seeded team in the state to make it to a sectional championship game.
After avenging a regular season loss at Linwood which cost them the West Jersey Football League Independence Division title, the Raiders came back eight days later to the same field. This time Ocean City knocked off the Mustangs and spoiled their previously unbeaten season with a tense 21-14 victory.
Their reward was a date at Long Branch in the playoffs’ second round, a nearly 90-mile bus ride to play a two-time defending sectional champion placed in the “South” section because of a new seeding policy by the state’s governing body of high school sports, the NJSIAA.
It was the first meeting ever of the two schools in football. The nearly two-hour bus ride meant little to Smith, who often referred to his team as “road warriors” for their eight games away from Carey.
“I always remember what my college coach told me,” said Smith. “Environment and playing (an unknown opponent) doesn’t mean anything. It comes down to blocking and tackling. The team that executes better is the team that will win.”
The Raiders definitely took those words to heart, squeezing past the Green Wave, 21-20. That set them up for one last bus trip, to Shawnee High School, where they were finally eliminated from the playoffs, 28-0.
“It was a heck of a ride,” said Smith of the season, no pun intended.
The Raiders are now set up for a great future. Of the 22 starting positions on offense and defense, the Ocean City Raiders will return 15 starters to the fold in 2020, including Quarterback Joe Repetti and wideout Jake Schneider, two of the most dynamic components on the offensive side of the ball.
Repetti set the school record for touchdown passes in a season, with 20 six-point aerials, half of which went to Schneider. Jake’s 690 receiving yards were the fifth most in a season in O.C. history, and he now ranks fourth alltime in his career with 1,237 yards. He needs 474 more receiving yards to break Scott Lipford’s record of 1,710 set in 1996, according to the team website.
Joe and Jake both made first team All-WJFL Independence, as did fellow returnees Brendan McGonigle, a soph kicker whose 34 conversions were the second most in school history, and running back-linebacker Jake Inserra, who led the team in tackles with 96 on the year, also according to OCHSfootball.com.
Seniors Chris Armstrong (two-way lineman) Brian Beckmann (a two-way back who led the team with six interceptions) and D-lineman Mike Williscroft were the other first-teamers. Brad Jamison (junior tight end), Mike Rhodes (junior offensive line) and junior D-lineman Will Drain were all named to the second team.
Raider Notes: On Thanksgiving, Ocean City paid tribute to 10-year-old Micah Tennant, a tragic victim of a shooting that claimed his life at Pleasantville’s November 15 playoff game against Camden. Six men from Atlantic City were arrested by Pleasantville police and charged in connection with the incident.
Ocean City held a moment of silence for Micah before the game, and wore stickers on their helmets recognizing him. Fans at the game made contributions totaling more than $500, contributed to Micah’s family.
The team’s annual banquet will be held Thursday, December 12 at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point.