By Tim Kelly
This is the time of year most Ocean City residents and visitors are thinking about beach, bay and Boardwalk.
For football devotees, July means the start of NFL training camps and preparation for the upcoming college and high school seasons.
For the Red Raiders of Ocean City High School, it means more than 60 student-athletes toiling at a recently concluded mini-camp, participation in a kids camp held by Philadelphia Eagles star Vinny Curry, and regular workouts in the team weight room.
Not too shabby for the so-called off-season.
Head Coach Kevin Smith was among a large contingent of Ocean City coaches and players who volunteered to assist Curry recently in his fourth annual free kids camp, held for the first time at the Raiders’ home field, Carey Stadium.
“It’s a great event and a beautiful day (to volunteer at Curry’s Camp),” Smith said at the time. “And this is the best possible venue for a camp like this. There is no better venue. You look at our program and it’s 100 years old. You’re humbled to be a part of it.”
In a tweet, he said, “Thanks to Vinny for bringing the camp to OC and for letting our players work as coaches. Great experience!”
Smith was also enjoying some quality dad time with his 6-year-old son, Aidan, who was among the 300-plus kindergarten-through eighth grade kids in attendance at the camp.
Curry’s one-day free event was “my way to give back,” the Super Bowl LIII champion said.
Curry does his regular off-season weight training at a local gym “for eight summers now,” he said.
Following the Birds’ Super Bowl win in February 2018, Curry signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Bucs. He returned to the Eagles this off-season, signing a one-year deal to come back to the team that drafted him in the second round out of Marshall University in 2012.
“I’m working out on this field all the time,” Curry said of the Carey Stadium gridiron. “I always see kids out here playing football. I just wanted the younger guys to get out here, learn some fundamentals and mostly, just have fun playing a great game.”
The Red Raiders recently completed their own weeklong summer mini-camp, which also stressed fundamentals.
“Mini-Camp is a time to get back to basics, things like stances, starts and tackling mechanics,” Smith said on the team’s website. “We get a lot of teaching done.”
Offensive coordinator Paul Callahan concurred. “We got in a ton of instruction with very little standing around,” he said. “I like the tempo of our practices and the kids played fast.”
Ocean City is coming off a season with a deceptive 4-6 record. The Red Raiders went 3-2 in the West Jersey Football Conference’s Independence Division, lost a pair of games by six points or less, and made a second consecutive appearance in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
With the experience gained by the returning veteran players, success of the jayvee and frosh programs, and the benefit of all the hard offseason work, the coaches and players have high hopes and expectations.
The Raiders open their season on Sept. 6 at Lower Cape May. The home opener is Sept. 13 against Egg Harbor Township.
To hear Smith enthuse about the coming season, you’d think opening night was a lot closer than that.
“We’re not in pads yet, so at this time of year effort and attitude are the things we use to evaluate our players,” he said. “I was really pleased with what I saw from our guys in that regard.”