Lower Cape May Regional High School quarterback Brennan Ray says he’ll know every player on the field in Thursday’s Anchor Bowl high school football game against Middle Township.
Ray, one of the many seniors from both teams who will play their final high school game, is a resident of Woodbine who attends Lower as a choice student. He played youth football in Dennis Township, where a good majority of the players on Middle’s team played in their younger days.
“Growing up, I played with lot of the kids that play for Middle,” Ray said. “I always talk with those guys. Some of them say they wish I was there with them. But it’s fun playing them. You get to see a different perspective and a different side of them.”
Lower Cape May is considered an underdog for the contest. If the Tigers are to have a chance, Ray will most certainly have to play well. The 6-3, 175-pounder has been the engine of the Caper Tigers’ triple-option offense, accounting for 655 rushing yards and 412 passing yards on the season.
“Coming into this game, there’s a little extra drive playing against kids I’ve played with my whole life,” Ray said. “It makes me want to play harder than ever, especially since this is my last high school game. And then being that it’s Middle Township, our rival, that makes it an extra special game.”
Despite Lower’s 1-8 record, Ray has developed into a rather special player at Lower. After beginning his high school career as a wideout, he was switched to quarterback prior to last season when Brian Hindle became the team’s head coach. Ray had played quarterback for his youth team.
“We noticed he was leader immediately,” Hindle said. “He was still a sophomore then, but he was the guy who helped everyone get organized and he got guys going in the weight room. We saw his leadership in the room and then his body caught up to his leadership.”
Hindle said Ray grew three inches in the offseason. His speed, athleticism and improved decision-making skills have allowed him to put up more than respectable numbers. In addition to his nearly 1,100 combined passing and rushing yards, Ray has accounted for 12 touchdowns – nine rushing and three through the air. He enjoyed one of his better games in a loss to powerful Holy Spirit, recording 100 yards both rushing and passing.
“He’s still trending upward,” Hindle said. “The cool think is that he just turned 17 in August, so he really could still be a junior. But he gained a lot of weight by working hard in the offseason.
“His a huge part of what we do and he has the ball in his hands a lot but he also does a great job getting the ball to a bunch of different players. And his passing’s come along as of late.”
Ray also starts in the secondary on defense. He’s recorded 20 tackles and two interceptions.
“We try to get him off the field as much as possible but he won’t leave,” Hindle said with a laugh.
Ray has garnered some college interest. Stony Brook, a Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) program, inquired early in the process. He’s also heard from quite a few Division III programs in the region lately.
“I do think he has the talent to play at the college level, it’s just a matter of him maturing more physically, which I know he’ll do because he’s still pretty young,” Hindle said. “You’d like to see him get a little thicker. But at the same time he’s touching the ball in excess of 40 times a game for us and he’s taken a lot of hits but he’s been relatively healthy throughout the year. He’s a tough kid, for sure.”
The wins and losses may not show it, but Ray believes the Lower Cape May program has come a long way over the past few years.
“When I came into Lower I knew it wasn’t this great winning team,” he said. “I just wanted to come in and help try to rebuild the program. Coach Hindle came in and turned me back into a quarterback and gave me a big leadership role. Our record doesn’t really show it but I think we’ve come a long way.”
Ray figures a victory over Middle Township – a team Lower hasn’t beaten since 2011 – would go a long way toward erasing memories of the team’s struggles.
“We’ve always been the underdog and no one expects us to beat Middle,” he said. “Everything thinks Middle is going to come in and run all over us. But we have to come out hungry with a chip on our shoulder like we have nothing to lose because this is our last game.”
— Brian Cunniff