By TOM WILLIAMS
On Friday night at Carey Stadium the Ocean City High School football team hopes to make history.
The Raiders are 8-0 and the game with Williamstown (4-4) is the final game of the regular season. Only seven teams in Ocean City’s 100-plus year football history have had undefeated regular seasons. And only four of them were undefeated and untied.
The 1996 team is the most famous. Those guys finished 11-0 and were ranked by USA Today among the top 10 teams in the East. The 1994 team suffered its only loss in the NJSIAA playoffs. The 1932 team was 9-0 and outscored its opponents, 197-6. And the 1931 team was undefeated before losing a special playoff game with Riverside to determine supremacy in South Jersey. Three others didn’t lose a game but had a tie during the season – 1949, 1945 and 1928.
The current Raiders have outscored their opponents by 234 points, the third highest difference in school history. The 1931 team had a 253 point difference and the 1996 team holds the record with 334 points more than their opponents.
Brendan McGonigle, battling a leg injury on Saturday, kicked five extra points while seeing limited action. He enters Friday’s game with 140 kicking points, fourth all-time among kickers at Cape-Atlantic League schools. His 110 extra points (in 120 attempts) is also fourth best in CAL history. And his 10 field goals ties him for 10th all-time in the CAL, one below Chris Curran’s school and county record.
Riley Gunnels passed for 116 yards and three TDs against Oakcrest, giving him 1,079 career passing yards. That puts him at No. 12 in OCHS history and makes him the fifth Raider QB to reach 1,000 yards as a junior – joining Matt LeFever, Al Genz, Andrew Donoghue and Joe Repetti. Gunnels’ 14 TD passes this year is fourth most among CAL quarterbacks. All the scoring leaders from CAL schools are HERE.
Friday night will be Senior Night at Carey Stadium but for Scott and Elaine Williams it is nothing new. They are likely the all-time leaders in Senior Nights – this will be their fifth. Sam Williams, who made a great interception at Oakcrest and is tied for the team lead in solo tackles, follows four brothers in the red and white. Skooter, who wore No. 20 his last two years, had 18 tackles for losses and three fumble recoveries in his career. Zac, No. 40 his last two years, led the 2014 team in tackles. Nick, who wore No. 40 as a senior, caught seven passes from Donoghue, including a TD pass against Cedar Creek. And Louie, who switched to No. 45 as a senior, made three tackles and recovered a fumble. Sam enters Friday’s game with 57 career tackles, including two sacks and two interceptions. He returned an interception 57 yards for a TD against Mainland last year. He switched to No. 5 this year, possibly a reference to his sequence among the five brothers. And to extend the family involvement, Vic Mahar, Sam’s cousin who played for the Raiders through the 2017 season, is part of the OCHS coaching staff this year – likely the youngest assistant in OCHS history.
So, what are the Williams’ totals? They have combined for 347 tackles, including 108 solos and 41 for losses. They’ve recovered six fumbles, intercepted three passes, blocked a punt and an extra point and scored twice, once on defense. Their grandfather, the original Tom Williams from Tom’s Deli, would be very proud. It would help him get over what happened to the Red Sox.
Freshman Walker Bailey ran 50 yards for a touchdown on Saturday. Bailey is the backup QB to Gunnels and has shown running skills whenever he plays. His TD run on Saturday was a rare thing, however. The last freshman to score for OCHS was McGonigle, who kicked 10 extra points in 2018. Mike Hinsley kicked 11 PATs and a field goal his freshman year in 2002. But the last freshman to score a varsity touchdown for Ocean City was Adam Martin who ran 20 yards for a score against Atlantic City in 1996. What makes this story more interesting is that Nick Bailey, Walker’s father, was an all star on that 1996 team. He watched Martin score that TD, never dreaming that his son would be the nest OCHS freshman to score a TD 25 years later.
Kevin Smith has improved his career record to 56-52 this season. Only four active CAL coaches have more (including St. Joseph’s Paul Sacco, who extended his South Jersey record Saturday with his 350th win) and Smith is 20th among active South Jersey coaches in career wins. He is third all-time at OCHS, six wins behind No. 2 Fenton Carey. Gary Degenhardt’s 101 wins is the school record.
Shutouts have been a big part of Ocean City’s 2021 season. The Raiders have shut out five opponents. QBs Marlon Leslie (Mainland), Christian Rando (EHT) and Aaron Bullock (Oakcrest) are the only three to score TDs against OCHS this year. The Raiders also had five shutouts in 2019, the most in the nearly 75 years that the CAL has existed. The last team to put together six shutouts was in 1947. The school record is eight shutouts in 1932.
The Raiders clinched the Independence Division championship in the West Jersey Football League with the win at Oakcrest. It is the first West Jersey Football League title by OCHS (CAL schools joined the WJFL in 2016) and their first league championship since the 2001 team won the CAL’s American Conference. Jim Thomas ran for 1,155 yards and 11 TDs on that team, Steve Cook ran for 810 yards and seven scores, Sean Raftery had eight sacks and Micah Rolls had six takeaways. Ocean City won 14 league championships in the CAL.
Jack Hoag has caught 13 passes for 381 yards and four TDS, including one with a spectacular run at Oakcrest. He is joined by Patrick Lonergan (six catches, 213 yards, 1 TD) whose 35.5 yards per catch is one of the CAL’s best. And Mike Gray (11 catches 133 yards, 6 TDs) who is fifth among CAL receivers in TD catches.
Jacob Wilson is expected to return on Friday. The senior led all CAL running backs with 285 yards after two games when he went down with a foot injury. He has missed the last six games. Sean Mazzitelli has run for 649 yards to rank among the CAL’s best this year. Mazzitelli has 907 career rushing yards and Wilson has 610. They will be back together now as the biggest games of the year are on the horizon. Check out the 8-game 2021 OCHS football stats HERE.
In NJSIAA Group 4 South, the Raiders enter Friday as the No. 5 seed. If the playoffs next week were based on the current power ratings, they would play Freehold Boro (4-4) in the first round at Carey Stadium. If the higher seeds won in the opening round, OCHS would visit Shawnee (4-3) in the second round. Millville (6-1) is the top seed. Other Group 4 South teams currently seeded ahead of OCHS are Winslow Township (6-2) and Long Branch (6-0). Results from this weekend can change a lot. The final seedings should be available on Sunday.
Friday’s game with Williamstown is one of those big games on the OCHS schedule because the Braves are a Group 5 team with four wins and beating them could move the Raiders up in the Group 4 seeding. But it is also because of Turner Inge. The 6-1, 204 pound senior has run for 1,116 yards and nine TDs this year. He has also caught 13 passes for 129 yards. And he has 91 tackles this year, including 52 solos and eight for losses. Inge has accepted a scholarship offer from Villanova, where he is expected to be a linebacker. Turner Inge is the best player Ocean City has faced so far this year and one of the very best in South Jersey.
Williamstown’s losses (to St. Augustine, Millville, Shawnee and Washington Township) have all been one-sided. The only common opponent with OCHS is Vineland. The Raiders beat The Fighting Clan, 21-0, and Williamstown beat them, 28-6.
Also on Friday – in addition to ceremonies for senior football players, cheerleaders and band members – the members of the Ocean City baseball team that won the school’s first state title will be presented with championship rings at halftime.
The live video stream of the game can be seen HERE.