By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR CITY — On Cedar Creek’s first play from scrimmage Saturday, JoJo Bermudez showed why he’s one of the most dynamic playmakers in South Jersey, as he took a handoff to the right but reversed field as a wall of Ocean City defenders closed in. He cut on his heel and raced back to the left, where he found an opening and dashed 91 yards down the left sideline to give his Pirates a 7-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
A play like that tends to wake a defense up and get it refocused. The Red Raiders weren’t having any more of that. In fact, there wasn’t much more of anything Cedar Creek could do, as Ocean City imposed its will on defense — including a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns — and did what it does best on offense to roll to a 45-7 victory over the host Pirates. Believe it or not, that’s actually the lowest margin of victory for Ocean City so far this year, as the Raiders beat Absegami 49-7 in the season opener and then blanked Oakcrest, 49-0, in Week 2. They’ll see if they can keep it rolling next Friday night when they welcome in Millville, a team that got blasted 56-6 by St. Joseph Academy this afternoon.
“We have a lot of seniors this year who are really good. When knew what we had to do when we came here (today) and we went out and did it,” said senior Jake Schneider, who had a receiving touchdown and a 40-yard pick-6.
Offensively, the Red Raiders are much like their namesake in the college ranks, Texas Tech, in that they like to run an up-tempo style where senior quarterback Joe Repetti is slinging the ball all over the field with some punishing runs by Jake Inserra mixed in. As a defense, facing that is kind of like getting jabbed in the jaw by a welterweight while at the same time a heavyweight is pounding away at your midsection. Unless you can get pressure on Repetti it’s going to be a long day for your defensive unit.
“We’re just trying to put the ball into the end zone as many times as we can, score as many points as we can and put away the other team as fast as possible. We’re very dynamic with the receivers we have and the running backs we have, and the offensive line has been doing a great job so far this year. We’re just trying to score as many times as we can,” said Repetti, who led Ocean City to a sectional championship game appearance a year ago. “There aren’t many differences from last year except that we’re all another year more experienced. We know where to be and what to do on every single play, and we know how to move the ball and put the ball into the end zone. I definitely feel more confident. It’s a lot easier (this year) going through my progressions and reading defenses, and if a hole opens up I just take it and run with it. I’m just trying to put the ball on people’s bodies, get the ball to my playmakers and let them do their thing.”
“I think he’d be the first to tell you that wasn’t his best game today, but to put up 45 points and not have your quarterback play his best, that’s a pretty good sign,” Ocean City coach Kevin Smith said. “The Bermudez kid hit a big play early on but I thought we responded well to that. I was happy to see us handle that adversity. There’s a lot we can learn from today.”
After that big play from Bermudez, it was all Red Raiders. They scored twice in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead, on an 8-yard run from Inserra and an 18-yard scoring strike over the middle from Repetti to Schneider on a fourth-down play.
“We’re going to try to get it out in space, and Joe and I have a good connection,” Schneider said. “We have it going on right now. We have a big game at home against Millville next week and they are a good team. We want to go undefeated. We 100 percent (wanted to make a statement today).”
The second quarter featured more of the same, as Schneider picked off a pass and ran it back 40 yards for a score and 21-7 lead, and on the very next possession Inserra did the same thing, picking off a screen pass and returning it 15 yards into the end zone. By halftime, Ocean City (3-0) led 28-7 and there was no let-up from the defense in the second half, either.
“It’s great to see them laying people out, and getting pick-6’s because they’re basically doing our job for us,” Repetti said of the defensive unit. “We don’t even have to go out and score points when they are doing things like that. And their big hits get everybody fired up.”
The second half featured another rushing touchdown from Inserra, a hook-up from Repetti to Brady Rauner and a 27-yard field goal from Brendan McGonigle, who also was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points.
Now, attention for the Red Raiders turns to Millville, a team that will be smarting after a tough home loss to St. Joseph Academy.
“This is a great group of seniors and I think their familiarity with the system and the fact that they’ve played in big games — it’s a pretty flat-line group of guys, and we like to have that steady hand. They absolutely believe (they can be a championship team) but I think all of them, and myself included, are just happy we’re playing. I know it’s very cliche to say we’re taking it one game at a time, but we’re literally taking it one game at a time with this (Covid-19) stuff,” Smith said. “Nothing is different for us in terms of our preparation, film work, weight training. You just have to make it as normal as possible. The kids like routines, they thrive when they have them, so we’re just trying to keep things as normal as possible.”
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Millville on Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. Cedar Creek travels to Buena Regional on Oct. 23 at 6 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays