By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Before a season begins, the Wildwood High School football team often is judged differently than others.
Rather than fans asking how good the team might be, the first question usually involves how many players are in the program.
In those terms, Wildwood is already a smashing success in 2019.
The Warriors are expected to have close to 30 players in uniform when they take the field for the first time this season on Friday against Middle Township, by far the most they’ve had in quite a few years.
The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Memorial Field in Cape May Court House and will air live on 98.7 The Coast radio.
Wildwood hasn’t recorded a victory in 36 games, dating back to late in the 2014 season when it slipped past Pleasantville in an NJSIAA consolation game.
The Warriors will be a major underdog against Middle. But with increased numbers, better overall talent and experience and a more manageable schedule, Wildwood is optimistic this will be the season for better results.
“Compared to past years, we’re light years better,” fourth-year head coach Ken Loomis said. “We truly think this is the year we’re going to be much better on the field.”
Wildwood is led by junior RB/DB Greg Mitchell, an outstanding athlete who played out of position at quarterback last season out of necessity. Sophomore QB Ernie Troiano IV will take over those duties after missing all of his freshman season with a foot injury. Sophomore RB/LB Dom Troiano, Ernie’s brother, is another young player with promise.
Wildwood has some good size along its offensive and defensive lines as well, led by seniors Cody Kolle, Shy’heem Copeland and Max McGrath and sophomore Jacob Adorno.
“This is the first time we’ve had a full offensive line,” Loomis said. “In the past we were playing some kids there who probably should’ve have been playing other positions.”
Other players expected to be major contributors include senior WR Devonte Ashton, junior RB/LB Miguel Claudio, junior RB/DB Omaria McNeal and freshman RB/DB Jon Nolan.
Loomis believes the resurrection of the junior football program on the island a few years ago is starting to pay dividends.
“We’re starting to get kids that have a little bit of football experience before they got here,” he said. “It’s not all starting from scratch. It’s a huge, huge help.”
Following Friday’s game with Middle, Wildwood travels to Clayton on Friday, Sept. 20. The first of just three home games is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 27, against Riverside.
Loomis is assisted by Casey Dillon, Chris Chobert, Brian Adair and Tom Higgins.