COLUMN: OCHS Teams of the Year

By TOM WILLIAMS

The calendar year 2020 is about to end (thankfully!) and, in many ways, it was a year to forget.

Except for Ocean City High School sports.

Later this week the OCHS Athletes of the Year and Sportsperson of the Year will be revealed. But today lets salute the two teams of the year – one boys team and one girls team.

The year started off with the boys basketball team in a battle for a Cape-Atlantic League conference championship; the girls basketball team upsetting Mainland in Linwood to win another South Jersey Group 3 championship; the wrestling team winning 15 dual meets and qualifying for the NJSIAA Team Tournament for just the fourth time in school history; and two swim teams that combined for 17 meet victories. The girls basketball team also won its state semi-final game but never got to play in the state final because the basketball season was ended by the NJSIAA the following morning.

It was frustrating for Paul Baruffi’s team but not nearly as frustrating as it was for spring athletes, Their season was cancelled. No baseball, softball or golf. No boys tennis, crew, lacrosse or track. Concerns about COVID-19 had wiped out the spring sports..

Then there was the fall. It wasn’t a normal season, by any stretch, with continuing quarantines, schedules adjusted on the fly and a minimal of championships. But the fall athletes got to play.

And they played very well.

The field hockey team had an undefeated season against CAL schools and won an NJSIAA bracket. The boys and girls cross country teams both finished second in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 Meet and had a combined 11-1 record in dual meets. The boys soccer team lost only to St. Augustine Prep in CAL action and reached the second round of the NJSIAA tournament. And the girls tennis team had its 14th consecutive winning season.

That leaves two fall teams – and they are the Raider Teams of the Year.

Ocean City’s football team was ranked seventh in South Jersey and 17th in the state. Kevin Smith’s Raiders rolled to five straight wins to start the season and then added a sixth – 12-7 over perennial power St. Joseph Academy. It was the first OCHS win over the Wildcats since 1976 and was the centerpiece win of the season, a win that the OCHS players will remember forever.

Then things got confusing.

Ocean City was supposed to host Camden in the final of a four-team NJSIAA bracket. But Camden’s Board of Education, which had been forced to close down the program at its other high school – Woodrow Wilson – would not allow its team to travel to Ocean City. At the last minute, the Raiders were able to schedule North Jersey power DePaul Catholic and they suffered their first loss.

Then traditional Thanksgiving opponent Pleasantville shut down its program over COVID-19 concerns. Ocean City thought its season was over. The players actually held a final practice session on Monday. But, on Tuesday, Williamstown, which had also lost its Thanksgiving Week opponent, agreed to come to Carey Stadium. The visiting Braves controlled the first half, leading 28-6 at intermission, when they got the phone call.

One or two of Williamstown’s players, who had not attended the game because they did not feel well, had tested positive for the virus. The superintendent was calling to tell the team to return home. The game ended at halftime.

But, despite all its obstacles and the strange ending, this was a memorable OCHS football team.

Senior quarterback Joe Repetti and senior wide receiver Jake Schneider will graduate as the most proficient passing combo in school history. They both set school records and Schneider ended his career with more pass receptions ever than any player at a CAL school. Junior Brendan McGonigle will return for his final season having already scored more kicking points than any kicker in Cape May County history.

There was also Jake Inserra, a major leader on offense and defense; Brad Jamison, also an all star on both sides of the ball; Brady Rauner, whose interception in the final minutes ended St. Joe’s final drive, and who was also strong on offense and defense; and the offensive line of Mike Rhodes, Will Drain, Ryan Kroeger, Zach Mazzitelli and C.J. Conti who provided the openings for runners and protection when Repetti passed. There were many more – the complete stats are HERE.

The girls soccer team had a new coach (Lisa Cuneo) but a similar result to 2019, when the team was also the year’s best at Ocean City. The 2020 Raiders were 11-0-1, the first undefeated girls soccer team in school history and only the second undefeated soccer team of either gender. They had a scoreless tie with a strong Middle Township team and a 3-2 win at Mainland but, in the rest of their games, these girls outscored the other team, 65-2. OCHS finished the season ranked No. 2 in South Jersey and No. 3 in the state. They will bring a 34-game unbeaten streak into next season.

Leading the way was Faith Slimmer, whose 30 goals this fall tied for the most in the state and who finished her career with 100 goals and 65 assists, both OCHS records. Junior Summer Reimet will return next fall with 69 career goals, tied for second at OCHS, and Hope Slimmer will be back with her 37 career assists, second only to her older sister. Reimet and Faith Slimmer share the OCHS single-season record with 35 goals.

But there were more key players on this team like Riley Fortna, Suzy Dietrich, Paige Panico, Tori Vliet, Emily Benson, Kamryn and McKenna Chisholm, Kelsey White, Aimee Altieri, Zoey Lappin, Kasey McDonnell, Joy Slimmer, Ashley Rhodes, Madison Majors and Kiera Schmidt.

You can read more about the girls soccer and football post-season honors HERE.

Girls soccer and football – the Ocean City High School Teams of the Year for 2020 – prospered in a strange year that was filled with both frustration and success for all Raider teams. They were two teams that, because of a pandemic, did not get to play the schedules they had planned and were not able to play for the championships they wanted.

But they were the best of the best at OCHS.

Tomorrow – the 2020 OCHS Athletes of the Year.

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