Ocean City Completes Historic 12-1 Season

Ocean City Completes Historic 12-1 Season

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The Red Raiders celebrate their school record of 12 wins in a season after topping Thanksgiving Day rival Pleasantville. (Photos courtesy of Ocean City High School Football Twitter page)

By TIM KELLY

It was the 99th renewal of one of South Jersey’s oldest Thanksgiving Day football rivalries. Ocean City’s 34-14 win over Pleasantville reflected the holiday – it capped off a year to be grateful for.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Ocean City Head Coach Kevin Smith said. “They were such a pleasure to coach. They were a bunch of guys who love football and brought the right mindset no matter if it was Tuesday practice or Friday night.”

The Red Raiders picked up their 12th win of the season, the first time they’ve ever won that many. They also claimed the West Jersey Football League’s Independence Division title, qualified for the NJSIAA South Jersey championship game for the third straight year, and had numerous other individual accomplishments.

“Winning 12 games for the first time in school history and a division title is something they can be proud of for the rest of their lives. It was a special group,” Smith said.

The win over Pleasantville also ended the season on a much brighter note than last weekend, when Millville abruptly ended Ocean City’s playoff run in the South Jersey title game.

“We’re not going to let that game define our season,” Smith, referring to the loss to Millville, told supporters of the program in his weekly e-mail.

The fact that Thursday’s opponent was Pleasantville (0-12) didn’t seem to matter as the Greyhounds showed up, hit hard, and scored two fourth quarter TDs to keep the game interesting.

On the opposite sideline, Sean Mazzitelli, who last week went over the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, ran for a pair of TDs, and quarterback Riley Gunnels passed for two, to Charley Cossaboone and Mike Gray.

If the offensive barrage was a Thanksgiving Day banquet, Jon Moyer provided a big slice of pie for dessert, a 93-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter.

“Moyer started for us at corner all year as a sophomore,” said Ocean City Assistant Coach Frank LaSasso, “but today we saw how exciting a player he is going to be for us the next two years.”

Ocean City’s defense, a strong point of the team all year, started the game off by holding Pleasantville to a 3-and-out.

That set the stage for a six-play, 55-yard touchdown drive on the Red Raiders’ first possession.  Key plays were a 16-yard run by Mazzitelli, a 12-yard Gunnels-to-Gray play action pass and an 8-yard scoring strike to Cossaboone.

Brendan McGonigle, the highest-scoring kicker in Cape Atlantic League history, missed the PAT, only his second misfire all year.

After holding Pleasantville on its next possession, Ocean City made it 13-0 on Mazzitelli’s 12th touchdown of the year and McGonigle’s kick. That run, a bruising 3-yarder, capped a six-play drive.

Mazzitelli added his second score on an eight-yard run, and Gunnels made it 27-0 at the half with a five-yard pass to Gray.

“Today was a good day for our program,” LaSasso said. “This week (after the Millville game) was tough and it would have been easy for us to come out and not play well. But our seniors took the reins and made sure we played to the standard we are accustomed to. We had six seniors who were starters as sophomores and they had a varsity record of 27-6, which is absolutely remarkable.”

If there was any doubt about the outcome, it was erased on the opening play of the third, an electrifying 93-yard kickoff return down the left sideline by Moyer. Ryder Hay, presumed to be next year’s kicker, was given a chance on the PAT, and he converted.

In a touching tribute, the Red Raiders wore “Renee” stickers on their helmets during the game in memory of 3-year-old Renee Monihan of Ocean City, who died tragically when she was struck by a vehicle on Nov. 13. The team extended its sympathies to Renee’s parents, Chris and Andrea Monihan, and the entire Monihan family on its Twitter page.

The Red Raiders wore “Renee” stickers on their helmets in memory of 3-year-old Renee Monihan of Ocean City.

RAIDER NOTES: With the victories come the spoils. Ocean City placed the following players on the Independence Division All-Star teams: First team offense – CJ Conti, Zach Mazzitelli, Sean Mazzitelli, Riley Gunnels, Jack Hoag and Brendan McGonigle. First team defense – Mike Gray, Taylor Eget, Tommy Schutta, Charley Cossaboone and Nasir Kelly.

Second team offense, Jacob Wilson, and Honorable Mention Sam Williams.

The selections were representative of a team that went 5-0 in the division and outscored its opponents, 175-15.

According to Smith’s email, this was the school’s first division title in 20 years.