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Underdog Red Raiders Aim for S.J. Title

first_imgOcean City junior quarterback Joe Repetti scores a rushing TD against Long Branch. (Photos courtesy of OCHSfootball.com) By TIM KELLYEverybody loves a winner, and an underdog winner gets extra love.At least that seems to be the case for the seventh-seeded Ocean City High School football team, which lines up at top-seeded, two-time defending champs Shawnee’s Medford campus 7 p.m. Friday for a shot at the South Jersey Group 4 title.The Red Raiders, currently 8-2 overall, including two come-from-behind playoff wins on the road against higher seeded teams, have been attracting a lot of attention lately.They are the lowest seeded team in the state playoffs to advance to the sectional finals. If they win, it would be O.C.’s first state championship since 2000.“We are hoping everyone picks against us,” O.C. Head Coach Kevin Smith said in an e-mail. “The underdog role suits us well.”Maybe it’s time for Ocean City fans to dust off those dog masks from the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl run. The Raiders have drawn big crowds of supporters on the road all season. But with the games available for viewing live on the internet, Raider Nation has gone national and even international. “I have heard from people all over the country the past few weeks who have watched us live from California, Florida, Washington, Arizona and Connecticut,” Smith said.He added that one of the player’s grandparents were heard from during a vacation in the Caribbean. “You all are experienced road warriors,” Smith told supporters. “Let’s do it again and pack the house at Shawnee Friday night.” Ocean City Head Coach Kevin Smith will match wits with 37-year veteran Shawnee coach Tim Gushue.Ocean City’s season, remarkable on its face, seems even more impressive given that the team has played only three games at home at Carey Stadium.The Raiders punched their ticket to the finals last Friday with a 21-20 thriller at Long Branch, a 90-mile drive from Ocean City. Before that, they avenged a bitter regular season loss at Mainland with a 21-14 victory in the tourney’s opening round, also at the Mustang Corral in Linwood.Shawnee didn’t have it any easier. The Renegades traveled to Neptune to post a hard-fought 31-21 opening round win and then came from behind to defeat Millville, also on the road, 27-18.Junior two-way back Nate Summerville was the star of the game for Shawnee, catching a crucial fourth quarter TD pass and breaking up a two-point conversion pass attempt that would have tied the game earlier in the period. Shawnee is coached by Tim Gushue, one of the longest tenured coaches in the state and a member of the school’s first graduating class. He has led the Renegades for 37 seasons, including four after undergoing successful quadruple bypass heart surgery. His teams are always tough and prepared. They have shown themselves to be mortal, though. The Renegades have two very bad losses on the books, including a 48-0 blowout at home to Woodrow Wilson and a 17-0 defeat to Williamstown two weeks later, also at home.If you want to play the common opponents game, Shawnee has a 14-7 overtime win at home over St. Augustine Prep, a non-public playoff semifinalist, which beat O.C. 35-3 in Week 5. However, Shawnee’s win was prior to the Hermits’ addition of two key transfer players becoming eligible to face Ocean City.None of that mattered to Smith during this week’s practice schedule. What mattered was his squad’s work ethic and resiliency.“I can’t express how proud I am of this team for their effort and determination,” Smith said. “They stayed focused, never quit and just kept playing football. The result is we are headed to the championship game.”The Red Raiders celebrate after their semi-final playoff win at Long Branch.last_img

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