By TOM WILLIAMS
The NJSIAA football playoffs continue Friday night when Ocean City puts its undefeated record on the line against Millville in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 championship game.
Three other Cape-Atlantic League teams will also be in action Friday and a fourth on Saturday. Also on Friday, St. Augustine (9-1) hosts Don Bosco Prep (7-4) in a Non-Public Group A semifinal. In two Non-Public B semifinal games, St. Joseph Academy (8-2) travels to Red Bank Catholic (9-1) and Holy Spirit (4-5) visits DePaul Catholic (8-2). On Saturday a battle of unbeaten teams finds Delsea (11-0) visiting Cedar Creek (11-0) for the South Jersey Group 3 championship.
Here is a look at Friday night’s action in Millville.
Coaches: Ocean City’s Kevin Smith is 59-52 in his 11th season, the third most wins in Raider football history. He has guided his team to a sectional final for the second straight year (2020 doesn’t count). Millville’s Dennis Thomas is 61-34 overall in his 9th season. He is 48-23 in seven seasons at Millville. He took Salem to a South Jersey Group 1 final in 2014 and won South Jersey Group 5 with Millville in 2016.
Ocean City Update: The Raiders, undefeated champions of the West Jersey Football League’s Independence Division, have shut out five opponents, have not allowed a passing TD this season and lead all Cape-Atlantic League teams in defensive scoring. The defense is deep, led by senior LBs Sam Williams (6-0, 188) & Taylor Eget (6-2, 205), senior safety Charley Cossaboone (6-0, 170), senior CB Nasir Kelly (6-1, 168), senior DE C.J. Conti (6-1, 262) and the senior Mazzitelli twins, LB Sean (5-10, 184) and LB Zach (5-11, 202). Senior Zach Holt (5-11, 182) leads the team with 6.5 sacks, Conti has 5.5 with Eget and Zach Mazzitelli each adding 4.5. Junior QB Riley Gunnels (6-4, 216) has thrown for 1,224 yards this year, third most by an OCHS junior, with 15 touchdown passes. He has also run for 11 scores. Sean Mazzitelli is one of the CAL leaders in rushing with 999 yards this year. He has 1,257 career yards, #23 all-time at OCHS. Senior RB Jacob Wilson (5-8, 170) has 100 or more yards in all five games he played this year and became the 33rd Raider to pass 1,000 career yards last weekend. Junior WR Jack Hoag (5-7, 150) has established himself as one of the league’s most exciting players with 209 yards rushing and 450 as a receiver. Junior WR Patrick Lonergan (6-1, 178) averages 27.1 yards per catch, among the best CAL receivers. Senior kicker Brendan McGonigle (6-0, 155) has 161 career kicking points, the most all-time in the CAL. In fact, only seven football players in OCHS history have scored more than McGonigle’s 161 career points. The OCHS roster is HERE. See where the individual Raiders rank among CAL scoring leaders HERE. Complete OCHS 11-game stat totals are HERE.
Millville Update: The Thunderbolts finished second in the WJFL’s American Division behind St. Augustine Prep. They have won five straight since losing to The Prep, 31-17. Senior RB LeQuint Allen (6-0, 184), a Syracuse recruit, has 1,463 rushing yards, 15th best in the state, and leads all CAL players with 142 points. Senior QB Nate Robbins (5-11, 171) has thrown for 2,102 yards, a Millville record, and 23 touchdowns. He has been intercepted five times. Freshman WR Lotzeir Brooks (5-10, 173) has already received major college scholarship offers. He has caught 23 passes for 663 yards and nine TDs. He has also returned two kickoffs for scores. Robbins has thrown TD passes to six other receivers, including senior Ti’yon Cephas (5-9, 144) 376 yards, three TDs; junior Thomas Smith (5-10, 150) 166 yards, three TDs; and sophomore Ta’Ron Haile (6-0, 171) 254 yards, one TD. Allen anchors the defense along with junior LB Keyan German (5-10, 252), senior T Jayden Wright (5-10, 275), senior T Elijah Edwards (6-4, 241) and senior LB Calem Bowman (6-2, 183). Seniors George Gonzalez (5-10, 222) and Achan Harris (5-11, 244) anchor the offensive line. The kicker is junior Jayden Raynis, a transfer from Middle Township, who has kicked 31 of 34 extra points and two field goals, the longest from 34 yards.
Scoring Averages: Ocean City 33.8, Millville 45.3.
Defensive Averages: Ocean City 4.7, Millville 14.9
Significant injuries: Ocean City is without senior Tom Schutta, a three-year star on defense.
Last Week: Both teams won by 35 points. Ocean City defeated Long Branch, 45-10 with Sean Mazzitelli and Riley Gunnels each scoring twice. Brendan McGonigle set a new OCHS record with his 12th career field goal, Jacob Wilson ran for 161 yards and Zach Holt notched a pair of sacks to take the team lead. The Ocean City-Long Branch box score is HERE. LeQuint Allen ran for 222 yards and two touchdowns in Millville’s 50-15 win over Pennsauken. QB Nate Robbins threw for 129 yards and two TDs, both to Ti-yon Cephas. The Millville-Pennsauken summary is HERE.
Tickets – and parking: Tickets are being sold only online HERE. Masks are not required. Parking is all outside the stadium and is limited.
Live Video Coverage: The live video stream produced by Matt Ulmer and Bill Shallcross, can be seen HERE, along with more than a decade’s worth of videos of other OCHS games. There is no radio coverage of the game but the video stream is available on virtually every mobile device.
History: Ocean City and Millville have a long history. This will be the 55th meeting – Millville leads the series, 28-24. OCHS won, 36-16, last year. There have been many great games between the two teams, a lot of them surrounding Millville’s iconic coach, Tony Surace. The box score of last season’s game is HERE.
Playoff History: Ocean City has qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs for the 20th time. The Raiders’ overall record in playoff games is 17-15. OCHS has now reached the championship game seven times and won four titles. Millville is playing in the playoffs for the 18th time. The Thunderbolts have an overall record of 15-15 in playoff games, have reached the final four times and won two championships. Ocean City’s last playoff championship was in 1999, Millville last won in 2016. The two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the first time.
What’s At Stake: The NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 championship. And the winner will advance to the Group 4 South Regional championship game the weekend of Dec. 3-4-5 against either Winslow Township (8-2) or Shawnee (7-3). That December game will likely be played at Rutgers or MetLife Stadium.
South Jersey Rankings: Ocean City is ranked #7 in The Online 25 rankings. Millville is #4. Other CAL schools include #1 St. Augustine, #2 Cedar Creek, #9 St. Joseph and #14 Holy Spirit. The complete list is HERE.
Other Rankings: Ocean City is ranked #19 in New Jersey by MaxPreps. Millville is #7. The Born Power Index makes Millville an 11-point favorite in the game.
Next week: Both teams play on Thanksgiving morning – the Raiders host Pleasantville in their 99th meeting and Millville hosts Vineland in their 103rd meeting. The Ocean City-Millville winner will also play again the first weekend in December.
This week’s full schedule of CAL teams in the NJSIAA is HERE.