By TOM WILLIAMS
Coaches: They are not related but they both graduated from Mainland Regional High School and were both part of the 1983 Mustangs team. Ocean City’s Kevin Smith is 39-48 in his ninth season as a head coach. Mainland’s Chuck Smith is 45-55 in his 11th overall season. He is 17-21 in his 4th season at Mainland. He previously coached at Oakcrest for seven seasons. Kevin Smith’s teams are 2-4 against the Mustangs and Chuck Smith’s are 3-2 against the Raiders.
Mainland Update : The Mustangs defeated Overbrook (35-0), Absegami (26-7), Cherry Hill West (30-19), Bridgeton (29-8), Clearview (14-7), Oakcrest (21-14) and Middle Township (38-6). Freshman running back Ja’Briel Mace (5-9, 165) has rushed for 983 yards and 14 touchdowns. The most points ever scored by a CAL freshman is 91 by Holy Spirit’s Nigel Jones. Mace is seven points away. Three different players have thrown TDs for Mainland but senior Zack Graziotto (5-9, 151) has taken most of the snaps. He has thrown for 445 yards and four TDs. He has been intercepted six times. The top receivers are senior Jake Cook (6-2, 201) with 27 catches for 369 yards and four TDs and senior Dan Misa (5-11, 174) with 13 catches for 248 yards and three scores. Two-way lineman Brayden Pohlman (6-2, 240), a first team all star last year as a junior, is probably out for the season with an injury. The offensive line is now anchored by senior center Ben Arena (5-11, 207) and senior tackle Sean Bradley (6-0, 196). Senior linebacker Drew DeMorat (6-1, 215) is the key man on defense with 52 tackles, 21 for losses. Bradley, Arena, senior linebacker Ian Russo (5-9, 189), senior end Julian Ocasio (6-2, 214) and junior end Sam Epstein (5-10, 197) all make the Mustangs defense tough. They have only allowed one rushing touchdown this season. Sophomore kicker Brady Panas (5-7, 135) has 19 kicking points, including a 30-yard field goal. Complete rosters for both teams are here.
OCHS Stats: The totals through seven games are here.
Offensive Scoring Averages: OCHS 36.0 per game, MRHS 27.6
Defensive Scoring Averages: OCHS 6.9 per game, MRHS 8.7
History: Mainland leads the all-time series, 27-19, including a 24-21 win last year at Carey Stadium that won the division title. Ocean City has won two of the last three meetings and Mainland has won four of the last six.
What’s At Stake: A whole lot. If Ocean City wins, the Raiders would be champions of the West Jersey Football League’s Independence Division. It would be the first football championship by OCHS since 2001. If Mainland wins, it would clinch a tie for the division (the Mustangs still have to play Egg Harbor Township). In addition, the result of the game should have significant inpact on the NJSIAA Group 4 seedings, possibly even determining a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
NJSIAA Power Rankings: In the system used to determine playoff qualifiers, Mainland is currently No. 5 in South-Central Group 4 and Ocean City is No. 10. If the playoffs started this week, the Raiders would travel to Toms River East (7-1) and Mainland would host Hamilton (6-1). The top 16 in each group qualify for the playoffs, which begin next weekend.
Rankings: On the MaxPrep website, OCHS is ranked #83 in the state (they moved up four places from last week) and #3201 in the nation (196 places higher). Mainland is #77 in the state and #2987 in the USA. OCHS is currently No. 22 in the Online 25 rankings and Mainland No. 24. Those complete rankings are here. In the Born Index, Ocean City is favored by 8.4 points.
Smith on Mainland: “Mainland is tough, physical and well-coached. The rivalry speaks for itself and both teams will be ready to play. The team that can control its emotions and execute best will probably come out on top.”
Something New: The winning team will take possession of the “Battle For The Bridge” award, created by Mike O’Brien and designed by Schoppy’s in Linwood, until the next time the two teams meet.
Special Event: This is Mainland’s Homecoming Game, with ceremonies during halftime.
Live Radio: The game will be broadcast live on 106.3 FM and can be heard online here.
Live Video: The audio from the radio broadcast will be part of live video, produced by Matt Ulmer and Bill Shallcross, and can be seen here, along with the videos of other OCHS games. Mainland’s live video stream can be found here.
Next week: Both teams will have games in the NJSIAA Group 4 playoffs. The exact pairings will be announced on Sunday and confirmed on Monday.