By Tim Kelly
Ocean City High School’s football team received a nice surprise when it was informed it would host Washington Township on Thursday.
It was originally believed the Red Raiders (3-5) would be on the road for their New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group 4 tournament consolation game. But when the word came down from the state’s governing body of high school sports, the Raiders were assigned to face Washington Township in a 6 p.m. contest at Carey Stadium.
In his weekly email to friends of the program, Head Coach Kevin Smith thanked the fans who braved the hour’s drive, the rain and the wind last Friday for Ocean City’s near miss against heavily favored Highland and urged supporters to come out for the final home game.
The Raiders were one yard and one play away from tying or taking the lead at the end of the first-round playoff game, and Smith indicated he would have gone for the win.
“I really believed we were going to score on the fourth-and-goal and then go for it and make it and pull off the upset,” Smith said. “It’s a shame we couldn’t get it done. Our guys really played their hearts out.”
If there was a silver lining to the game, there was a major school record set. Senior quarterback Ian Aungst’s 242 passing yards against Highland brought him to 1,633 for the season, the most passing yardage in a season in Ocean City history. It shattered the old mark of 1,567 yards set in 2009 by Chris Curran. Aungst figures to add to that total on Thursday night.
“Congrats to Ian (and to) all the receivers and linemen who helped make this happen,” Smith said. “It is truly a team accomplishment.”
The Washington Township Minutemen (3-6) have one common opponent with the Red Raiders, Egg Harbor Township. The Eagles lost 19-12 to Washington Township and 25-6 to Ocean City.
Washington Township is coming off a 34-3 blowout loss to powerhouse Williamstown in its first round playoff game. They also lost to the Braves in the regular season and to other quality opponents such as Holy Spirit and Kingsway in the West Jersey Football League’s tough Royal Division.
In their first round game the Minutemen hung tough, to trail 13-3 at halftime. But Williamstown reeled off 21 unanswered third quarter points to virtually settle the issue.
Ocean City has not tasted victory since blanking Absegami 9-0 on Sept. 21. However, they have been in every game and lost in heartbreaking fashion to Oakcrest in overtime, Mainland on a walk-off 41-yard field goal and Triton after leading in the fourth quarter.
It is a tribute to the players and coaches that OC bounced back from each of these tough losses and continued to play hard-nosed football.
The Raiders have one more game after Thursday. They will play their traditional Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Pleasantville.