By TOM WILLIAMS
Another playoff game – another contest that goes down to the final possession.
Ocean City’s 21-20 win over Long Branch moved the Raiders into the South Jersey championship game for the first time since 2000. Joe Repetti scored two TDs and passed to Jake Schneider for another but it was ball control and some key defensive plays in the second half that brought home the victory.
The Drive: Long Branch led, 20-14, as the second half began. Ocean City started on its 35 after Schneider’s 15-yard kickoff return. A run by junior Jake Inserra and a pass completion to Schneider converted two third downs. A nine-yard scramble by Repetti converted a fourth down and put the ball on the Green Wave’s 26. Inserra carried four straight times for 17 yards, moving the ball to the nine. Repetti went in from there. It was a 65 yard drive in 15 plays that consumed six minutes and 31 seconds. And, though Repetti, Inserra and Schneider get the credit for the yardage, seniors Chris Armstrong and Jack Baker, junior Mike Rhodes and sophomores Zach Mazzitelli and C.J. Conti did some fine work up front to block for those gains. And Repetti also got strong blocks from Schneider, senior Ted Grimley and junior Brad Jamison on the scoring play. All together, Ocean City had the ball for almost 18 of the 24 minutes in the second half. And when they needed a big defensive play – like a deflected pass by Will Drain, a sack by Matt Christy or the big fumble recovery by Jacob Wilson – they got it.
The two Jakes: For most of the season Jake Schneider has been a force on offense and Jake Inserra has been the leader of the defense. But, in recent games, Schneider has played more defense and made positive contributions and Inserra has been another option on offense. Against Long Branch, Inserra carried the ball 29 times for a career high 110 yards. He had only carried the ball nine times combined in the first 10 games of the season.
Defense: Inserra led the defense again on Friday with nine tackles, including three solos. Christy and Jamison each added seven with Brian Beckmann making four solo tackles and blocking what turned out to be a crucial extra point. Christy and Rhodes each had two sacks. The Raiders did a decent job on Jermaine Corbett, the dangerous Long Branch running back. He did gain 112 yards and scored on a run and a pass but in many situations when the Green Wave needed a big play, Ocean City was able to stop him. Long Branch played the second half without senior quarterback Kyle Davidson, who was injured. He was 7-for-8 for 95 yards in the first half. Sophomore Christian Rodriguez took over in the second half and threw for 32 yards and ran for 17 more. But he only had the ball for 13 plays in the entire second half.
19 TD passes: For the first time, Repetti’s rushing total in Friday’s game was higher than his passing total. The junior QB threw the ball 14 times for 62 yards and he ran 12 times for 66 yards. Repetti is the latest in a string of four impressive quarterbacks at OCHS and for most of the season he reminded viewers more of Andrew Donoghue and Ian Aungst with his passing numbers. But he is starting to add more Harry Pfeifle to the mix. Pfeifle ran for more yards (838) and more TDs (16) in 2017 than any QB in school history. Still, it was one of Repetti’s 12 passes on Friday that put him in the record book. The TD pass to Schneider was his 19th of the year, tying the school record set by Al Genz in 1998. Repetti has passed for 1,264 yards this year, the eighth highest total in school history and second highest by a junior. And that TD catch was No. 10 this year by Schneider and the 13th of his career, both three away from school records. Schneider has 1,138 career receiving yards, fifth best all-time.
Red Shoes: Sophomore Brendan McGonigle kicked the winning point at Long Branch. He is 33 for 37 this year, third best in one season at Ocean City. The most by a sophomore is 34 by Dan Kennard in 1999. McGonigle does not seem to like Linwood. He is 32 for 34 in eight games this year, but was just one for three at Mainland.
NJSIAA Group 4: Friday’s win moved Ocean City into the South Jersey final at Shawnee on Friday (preview coming tomorrow). The winner of that game will play the Central Jersey winner in a “bowl game” either at MetLife Stadium or Rutgers the weekend of Dec. 6-8. Hammonton (9-2) and Jackson Memorial (8-2) are playing in the Central Jersey championship game Friday night.
The black pants: The Raiders are now 2-0 in the black pants. Look for them to be worn again on Friday.
Kevin Smith says: “I’m so proud of how our guys continue to stay focused on small things and on having a ‘next play’ mentality in these big games. We’ve been behind but no one panics. We just keep executing. That’s worked well for us. In the second half, we felt we could wear them down up front in the run game. The line was covering defenders up and Jake Inserra kept making tough runs. It was huge to be able to keep the play away from them considering how explosive they are. We haven’t played that type of offense all year but it was there when we needed it.”
Links: The complete Ocean City-Long Branch stats are here. Complete 10-game OCHS stat totals are here. The video of the game is here. Playoff schedule for CAL teams is here. Links to online coverage of this weekend’s games are here.