Here they go again!

By TOM WILLIAMS

Coaches: Ocean City’s Kevin Smith is 39-49 in his ninth season as a head coach. Mainland’s Chuck Smith is 46-55 in his 11th overall season. He is 18-21 in his 4th season at Mainland. He previously coached at Oakcrest for seven seasons. Kevin Smith’s teams are 2-5 against the Mustangs and Chuck Smith’s are 4-2 against the Raiders.

Mainland Update : Freshman running back Ja’Briel Mace (5-9, 165) has rushed for 1,095 yards and 15 touchdowns. The most points ever scored by a CAL freshman is 92 by Holy Spirit’s Nigel Jones. Mace is two points away. Jones gained 1,207 rushing yards that year, the most by a freshman. Mace is 112 yards 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 564 yards and six TDs, including two last week. He has been intercepted six times. The top receivers are senior Jake Cook (6-2, 201) with 33 catches for 509 yards and six TDs (including two great ones last week) and senior Dan Misa (5-11, 174) with 14 catches for 253 yards and three scores. Two-way lineman Brayden Pohlman (6-2, 240), a first team all star last year as a junior, was thought to be out for the season with a torn ACL. But he played part of the game last week and is expected to play again. The offensive line is also 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 64 tackles, 22 for losses. Bradley (four sacks last week), 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 22 kicking points, including a 30-yard field goal. Complete rosters for both teams are here.

OCHS Stats: The totals through eight games are here.

Offensive Scoring Averages: OCHS 34.7 per game, MRHS 26.8

Defensive Scoring Averages: OCHS 8.6 per game, MRHS 8.4

History: Mainland leads the all-time series, 28-19, including last week’s 21-6 win. The Mustangs also won 24-21 last year at Carey Stadium to win the division title. Mainland has won five of the last seven. The two teams have split four playoff games – OCHS winning in 2000 in 1999, Mainland in 1997 and 1995. Mainland has never played back-to-back games against the same team. Ocean City last did it in 1975 against Pleasantville. Ocean City has lost five straight playoff games since its last win against Lacey in 2001. Mainland has lost three straight since it defeated Southern for the 2008 South Jersey title.

What’s At Stake: Advancing to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner between Highland (6-2) and Long Branch (3-5) next weekend in the semifinal. If Mainland wins it will be at home next weekend. If OCHS wins it would on the road again next weekend. In the other half of the bracket, two-time defending champion Shawnee (6-2) will host Neptune (5-3) on Friday night and Millville (4-4) will be at Clearview (7-2).

Rankings: On the MaxPrep website, OCHS is ranked #85 in the state (they moved down two places from last week) and #3668 in the nation. Mainland is #67 in the state (they moved up 10 spots from last week) and #2724 in the USA. Mainland is currently No. 22 in the Online 25 rankings. Those complete rankings are here. In the Born Index, Ocean City was favored by 8.4 points last week. This week, the Raiders are favored again – by 0.4 points. (Mainland defeated Ocean City, 22-16, in 2009 – the only overtime game between the schools. It actually went three overtimes.)

Kevin Smith on Mainland: “I thought Mainland was more physical than we were last week and they did a nice job capitalizing on their opportunities. That said, it’s a great opportunity to get to play them again. We will have to be more fundamentally sound to beat them.”

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 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: The winner will play in the NJSIAA Group 4 semifinals. The loser will schedule a consolation game so there is not a 20-day layoff until Thanksgiving.

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