By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
LINWOOD — When you attend Mainland Regional High School, there aren’t a whole lot of things better than scoring a victory over archrival Ocean City. The Mustangs’ boys soccer team did that in tidy fashion on Wednesday afternoon, blanking the Red Raiders 2-0 behind a goal and assist from senior Devon Ford, but Mainland coach Alex Weidman made sure to keep things in perspective following the win.
This was just the second game of the season, the Mustangs have a lot to clean up, and if they want to be taken seriously as a contender in South Jersey Group 3 they are going to have to come out and consistently beat good teams. They also have to stay fit, focused and healthy. In other words, bring a businesslike approach to the pitch every day.

Mainland senior Devon Ford scores on a highlight-reel bicycle kick in the seventh minute to give Mainland a 1-0 lead over rival Ocean City. (Glory Days photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“That’s one thing we talk to the boys about — and sometimes it’s hard for 14-through-18-year-old kids to understand is that you have to be businesslike, you have to be professionals, even at the high school level,” Weidman said. “We did what we were supposed to do, and the spectacular stuff, the awesome goals and the shutouts come from that. It’s a long season, we’re only two games in and we have a strong opponent in Oakcrest coming up on Friday. It means nothing if we get this win at home and go lose to Oakcrest on Friday. We’re ready to go and we need to maintain that focus.”
Mainland (2-0) got on the board in the seventh minute thanks to an acrobatic bicycle kick tally from Ford following a couple of nice saves by Ocean City keeper Kyle Plenn. Mainland keeper Zach Matik used the wind at his back to get off a long punt that Ryan Pellegrino ran under and took a shot on goal. Plenn was there for not only the initial save, but another save on a rebound, but the deflection from that save went to the middle of the 6-yard box and Ford drove home a goal via the bicycle kick — a move every soccer player dreams of and plays around with at practice, but rarely gets a chance to pull off in a game.
“I saw it go up in the air and I second-guessed myself. I wasn’t going to do it at first, but then I just went for it, and once I felt it hit my foot, it felt good. Me and Ryan always mess around with doing bicycle kicks in practice. When it hit my foot, it felt good. I saw the goalie about to tip it, then it hit his fingers a little bit and went in. It was crazy,” Ford said. Added sophomore Nick Bozzi, “You see it all the time in practice from our guys, we’re always trying stuff like that. It’s great to see it work out in the game, it gave us the early lead and we just built off that. We talked about that at halftime, how we needed one more, and we got it.”
“The bicycle kick, he’s always trying it in practice and it never quite ends up that way. It was impressive, and it got us off on the right foot,” Weidman said. “I think that set the tone for the game, that we wanted to take control, take chances and go right at them. We did a really nice job on both sides of the ball, we outleted to our skill players and they took care of business.”
Ocean City had a chance to even the score right before halftime, but wasn’t able to convert on three straight corners in the final minute of the first half. Mainland took advantage of that halfway through the second half when Ford sent a beautiful cross into the box from the right flag, and Bozzi finished for a 2-0 lead.

Chris Catona and the Red Raiders will look to bounce back on Friday when they host Lower Cape May. (Glory Days photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“Tommy (Gordon) made a good throw-in right to the corner, it bounced right to me and I got a nice hit on it right to Bozzi,” said Ford, younger brother of former Mainland soccer and lacrosse standout Keegan Ford. “It was really cool because I know I can count on Bozzi to finish those because that’s something we work on at practice every day.”
“First of all, that was an awesome cross from Devon,” Bozzi added. “We do that over and over again in drills, and I just connected with it at the right time. I just had to put it away for my team.”
Matik finished with six saves for the shutout, while Plenn, despite surrendering the two goals, played very well and finished with 11 saves. The Red Raiders look to rebound on Friday when they host Lower Cape May at 4 p.m., while Mainland looks to stay undefeated when it travels to Oakcrest on Friday at 3:45 p.m.
“We have more chemistry and are more of a team this year, and it felt good to get our first home win, especially against Ocean City. In school, (when we play them) everybody is ready for it and talking about it. It’s just a whole different feel,” Ford said.
Added Bozzi, “We always love to beat our cross-bay rivals. We came into the season expecting it. We’re going to play them again and we hope we can get the same result. We have a great group of guys, we had a lot of great team building throughout the summer, and I wouldn’t want to be playing soccer with anybody else.”
Weidman cautioned his players about taking too much away from one victory in early September because he knows the season will be a grind and the Mustangs will face a number of challenges in the next couple of weeks.
“Anytime you’re playing Ocean City and get the win, it feels good, increases the school pride a little bit, but they are going to be ready to go next time. They’re a good team. I just told the boys, we held serve today. That’s nothing spectacular unless you go beat them on their turf (later in the season),” he said. “We did what we were supposed to do and I’m happy with the result. They have a potent offense and good players; Ocean City always is a strong team, but we’ve been working on our defense. I’m proud of our guys, they fought hard and — again — did their job. When you have four backs playing as one, you see the results and ultimately the shutouts come.”
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Lower Cape May on Friday, 4 p.m. Mainland travels to Oakcrest on Friday at 3:45 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays