CAL Football Preview: Ocean City Red Raiders
High School Football season is right around the corner; we'll take a look at some of the Cape-Atlantic League teams in the final season in the league.
All of the CAL members will be heading to the West Jersey Football League next season, but have one final year left to grab a CAL title.
Who will that team be?
This time we take a look at the Ocean City Red Raiders, who are coming off a 3-7 season with a real young team in the CAL American Conference. The group III school ended the season on a two game win streak and will look to build on that when it opens the season against Absegami on Sept. 11.
"We only had eight seniors on the whole team last year," explained Ocean City head coach Kevin Smith who is 12-28 in four season at the school. "So there are a lot of guys back, but we did lose some key lineman which is always tough, that's your most important position group. But we bring back pretty much all the skill guys, so we're excited."
The team returns its three top ball carriers with Dan Henderson, Owen Naplacic and Jared Jones all seniors, plus junior quarterback Andrew Donoghue and top pass catcher Christian Baumgardner.
Ocean City was a football power in the early-to-late 90's but its declining enrollment has been felt on the football field. The team last had a winning record in 2008 when they finished 6-4, before that it was 2002.
The success of the 1990's was not evident though in the schedule they played last season, playing in American conference of the Cape Atlantic League, there are no weeks off, something Smith admitted Ocean City had to get acclimated to last season.
"To be honest, I think it was a confidence issue," Smith explained. "I think there was a sense of, can we play with these schools? But quite honestly, despite the record, I think we handled ourselves well. We competed with all the public schools, we were right there, we were in fourth quarters."
While Ocean City went just 3-7, they didn't feel they were out classed by any of the CAL public school powers and Smith mentioned that confidence is important, the Red Raiders were a different team when they played with confidence. Its something Smith is trying to install to his players right away this year.
"The biggest thing that we try to do is compete at everything we do," Smith stated. "Every period we have at practice ends with some sort of competition, the goal is to make them realize there's winners and losers in competitive sports and that they always need to be competing and that they have to want success and that they have to understand that they don't want to lose."
Last year Ocean CIty was working on getting physically strong, when the team made the move up to the American Conference, Smith knew his team had to get bigger, its something he feels that after four years as head coach, he's starting to see the results of that weight room work.
"I think that's the biggest success in the last couple of years in the program," Smith acknowledged. "We closed the gap with a lot of the schools we compete against as far as that's concerned. My first year as head coach we were up in the American Conference and we were physically manhandled by teams - that wasn't the case last year. We didn't lose games because we got physically manhandled, we are certainly proud of our weight program and we need to continue to bang away at."
While the Red Raiders have struggled under Smith, he is excited about this season and where the direction of the program is heading.
Listen to Ocean City head football coach Kevin Smith