COLUMN: The 2020 OCHS football season

By TOM WILLIAMS

It was pretty obvious in the middle of the summer that the 2020 Ocean City High School football season would be different.

But just how different was not yet clear. This was the original OCHS schedule –

An opener with Holy Spirit, the eventual #1 ranked team in South Jersey, at Carey Stadium the Thursday before Labor Day before 4,000 fans. Then a trip to Hammonton the following week. Still not sure why Seneca and Pemberton were there (they were included in the re-aligned division with OCHS by the West Jersey Football League) but it was a great start to what would have been a terrific season.

It didn’t happen. But the 2020 Raiders made the season memorable anyway.

Kevin Smith’s team won its first five games, including a win over a Millville team that proved its potential with wins over St. Augustine Prep and Williamstown. Then came the post-season where the Raiders finished against three of the Top 20 teams in the state.

They defeated St. Joseph Academy for the first time since 1976 for a sixth straight win. Then they lost to an impressive DePaul Catholic team before being assigned a defeat to Williamstown in a game stopped at halftime.

Those last two games were supposed to be against Camden and Pleasantville but those two schools cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. In a season filled with last-minute negotiations, Ocean City was able to schedule the DePaul and Williamstown games at the last minute.

Less than 500 people watched this team play each week. The number dropped to 150 the last week. Those fans included mostly the parents of the players, cheerleaders and band members. The rest watched the video streams produced by Bill Shallcross.

By the way, Bill is preparing his annual football highlight video and you can reserve your copy by contacting him at Cross Over Productions – CrossoverProd55@gmail.com.

It wasn’t the schedule Ocean City had planned. It wasn’t even the schedule they expected entering November. But it was fun to watch.

The Joe Repetti to Jake Schneider combination was the most prolific in OCHS history. They connected for 17 touchdowns over two seasons, the most of any Raider combination ever. Repetti finished his career with 31 TD passes and Schneider caught a total of 20 – both school records.

Schneider was difficult to cover and almost as difficult to tackle. In addition to his TD catches, he returned three interceptions for touchdowns, another school record, and his 122 catches over three seasons snapped the Cape-Atlantic League record of 117 set by Cedar Creek’s Bo Melton, now a key performer at Rutgers.

Jake Schneider (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

Repetti, despite his 2,245 career passing yards (fifth highest all-time at OCHS) became a force running the ball. He was among the CAL leaders in rushing yards, using strength and an impressive ability to read blocks and find openings. Though Repetti’s passing and Schneider’s receiving skills gained a lot of attention, Ocean City actually ran the ball more than twice as often as it threw it.

Inserra & Repetti (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

Another reason for that was Jake Inserra. It became so normal to see Inserra drive a group of four or five defenders backward – “moving the pile”, as it is called – that by the end of the season it was just expected. He was one of the league’s top two-way players, producing 4.2 yards per carry and seven TDs on offense while leading the team with 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles on defense.

Inserra makes the tackle (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

Inserra says he will remember everything about this season. “We are very grateful to even get a chance to play a season,” he said. “We had an awesome group of guys who loved working hard every day and it paid off during games. We earned a lot of respect this season and stapled ourselves as a top program in the area. The memories I will take with me are simply just how hard we worked at practice.”

Brad Jamison was another impressive two-way player – second on the team in pass receptions, including three for TDs, and second in tackles and tackles for losses, including three sacks. He established Jamison family success standards that should last a long time.

Brad Jamison (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

Mike Rhodes also was a force on both sides of the ball. He was third on the team in tackles and led in tackles for losses. In addition to his work on defense, he supplied many a block that opened up the field for the ball carriers.

Mike Rhodes (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

“The hardest part about losing OCHS is going to be knowing that I’m not going to get to play football with my brothers ever again,” Rhodes said. “This program and the friendships I have made over the past four years will carry with me for the rest of my life. We came out this season and we gave it our all – we showed everyone than even as a South Jersey public school team we can still compete with the best. We had so much success this season and I couldn’t be happier. I would have wished to finish with a win or at least a full game but you can’t change the circumstances we are in right now. OCHS football will forever be a part of me and I will always be a Raider.”

Ocean City also got offensive contributions from Jack Hoag, Jacob Wilson and Sean Mazzitelli. They gained a combined 375 yards carrying the ball and should comprise a pretty good backfield next year.

Incidentally, all of the yards gained by Repetti, Inserra and the rest were not gained alone. These five guys made the interior blocks and opened the holes ….

#55 senior Will Drain, #56 senior Ryan Kroeger, #51 junior C.J. Conti, #53 junior Zach Mazzitelli and #52 senior Mike Rhodes (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

There were more key contributors.

Brady Rauner, who caught two touchdowns, frequently drew the top cover assignments on defense. His interception to kill St. Joseph’s final drive will go down into OCHS history as one of the most memorable moments.

Brady Rauner (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

There was also Tom Schutta, Matt Christy, Charley Cossaboone and Sam Williams on the defensive side. And Mike Gray on offense (watch for him next year as a key pass receiver).

Mike Gray (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

The Raiders also had the top kicking game among CAL schools this year and they probably will again next year – because of Brendan McGonigle. As a junior, he already has more kicking points than any player in Cape May County history. And there are probably more kicking records in his future.

Brendan McGonigle kicks out of Joe Repetti’s hold (BRIAN GREEN Photo)

The other seniors who were part of this memorable season include Gavin Parto, Tim Waller, Carl Wanek, Nick Shallcross, Noah Murray, Elijah Cochran, Will Moffitt, Steve Leypoldt and Dhruv Patel.

The 2020 football season at Ocean City High School was memorable. It was memorable because of the impact of COVID-19 – not just on the football schedule but on life. It was memorable because of the numbers these players recorded, the records they set, the fact that they were ranked #9 (MaxPreps) or #17 (NJ.com) in the state and, for the first time in school history, played three of the state’s top 20 teams consecutively.

The 2020 football players at OCHS did not hear the roar of the crowd the way they could have and they didn’t get to compete for championships in the WJFL or NJSIAA. But they faced the obstacles and last-minute changes, dealt with all the necessary virus precautions and ultimately, by working hard together, they created a season to remember.

Links to the final OCHS football stats, videos and more are HERE.

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