Glory Days file photo/Sully

By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
It’s kind of like seeing a Volkswagen Beetle these days. It’s such a rare thing anymore that you take notice. Kids don’t even know what you’re referring to when you lightly punch them on the arm and say, “punch buggy red.” It’s a thing of the past.
Kind of like that All-American kid who plays football, basketball and baseball. That harkens back to the 1970s when other sports, such as lacrosse, soccer and swimming, weren’t all that popular or didn’t even exist on the high school level.
Joe Repetti, a 2021 Ocean City High School graduate, makes people in their 50s, 60s and 70s long for the days of their youth, when the star quarterback was also a great basketball and baseball player, had a clean-cut look, grandma’s manners and grandpa’s toughness. Repetti — the Glory Days Magazine Boys Sports Senior of the Year — is a walking embodiment of nostalgia and what was once good and pure about high school sports. He’s got character, leadership — the girls at school fawned over him and the boys all wanted to be like him. He’s the kind of kid you invite over for Sunday dinner.
He’s the kind of kid that coaches are eager to talk about. Just ask Red Raiders football coach Kevin Smith or baseball skipper Andrew Bristol.
“I think he was remarkable last year. He was the starting quarterback, point guard and catcher for three really successful teams. It hasn’t surprised me at all with the reports out of Muhlenberg (College) that he’s doing really well. You don’t get kids like that a lot,” Smith said. “You just never felt like you were out of a game with him. We got down to Mainland, we got down to Long Branch, we got down to St. Joe and came back and won all three of those games, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that Joe never panics.”
“We have some really good pitchers coming back (in 2022) and some good JV guys who are going to come up, but I always tell everybody the key is the catcher. That’s the biggest position we have to fill because he was the glue to that. He was so solid. I don’t think he let a ball get by him in the playoffs. He went through a spell where he was down a little bit — I think he was just tired from everything — but then he started throwing runners out again and playing really solid defensively. And he’s such a calming presence back there,” said Bristol, who switched Repetti from shortstop to catcher because he needed his best athlete behind the plate. “You won’t see a lot of emotion out of him one way or the other. He was the same way whether he was winning or losing. That tone never changed, so he could settle guys down. He was a different kind of leader. He wasn’t going to get in your face and scream at you, he was just going to lead by example. He was always on time, he never missed anything, he stayed late.”
In typical Joe Repetti fashion, he credits all the people around him with his success.
“My career at Ocean City set me up for the future. I met a lot of good people, had a lot of good teachers and coaches and they all had my best interests at heart,” he said. “Now, here at college, I’m doing many of the same things and I’m prepared in a way that I wouldn’t be at many other schools, and I’m grateful for that.”
Repetti’s name became synonymous with winning during his time at Ocean City, particularly his final two years. He led the football team to a 15-5 record during that time, including a trip to the sectional championship game; in basketball the Red Raiders went 25-11 the past two years, and after losing his junior baseball season to Covid-19, all he did as a senior was lead Ocean City to the first state championship in program history.
What made Repetti so much more valuable than the average high school athlete and able to lead his teams to so many wins? His ability to handle pressure.
“In those pressure situations you just have to try to block out all the noise and focus on doing the one job you have to do each and every play. You have to block out the noise, block out the crowd and just do your job to the best of your ability, and things will fall into place how they need to,” Repetti said. “The toughest thing for me (in football) was probably learning the playbook. Once that started clicking and I was getting on the field and making reads in real time, everything just started to fall into place. Everything came to me — I wouldn’t say naturally, but I had great coaches around me to help me read defenses when I needed to and make the plays as they needed to be made.”
That was Repetti’s philosophy throughout his high school career — just make the plays you’re supposed to make. He did that, and much more, during the baseball team’s win over Pascack Valley in this spring’s Group 3 title game. He caught all 14 innings in 95-plus-degree heat, not letting a single ball get past him.
“I never saw him in the dugout, he never said a word, never complained about the heat,” Bristol said. “But looking back, I found out how he was being iced down in there and all that. If I can get half of a kid like that, I’m good. He’s right up there with the best kids I’ve ever coached.”
All those games, all those practices for three sports — Repetti literally never had a break all year long. But, he said he never really needed one.
“It didn’t really phase me much. During school I was always looking forward to getting to practices or games after school. That made me want to keep pushing every day to get through school and get my work done, then let loose on the football field, basketball court or baseball field, whatever it may be,” he said. “I never really felt worn down. There were some late nights coming home from a late football practice or something like that and having a decent amount of homework, but I never really felt worn down. I always felt grateful to play those three sports and be around the people I was with.”
He’s already making an impression at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., where no doubt he’ll spend the next four years making more memories. It’s going to be tough to top finishing his high school career as a state champion, though.
“I think my high school career set me up for the future. I had a lot of great experiences and I’m very thankful to be put into the spots I was to accomplish the things I did with the people around me,” Repetti said. “Those are memories that are going to last me a lifetime. There’s a lot I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids.”


OTHER CANDIDATES

Jake Inserra, Ocean City football, lacrosse: One of the top student at Ocean City, Inserra also was a punishing running back in football and staunch defender in lacrosse. He also was a team captain and leader for both programs.
Matt Delaney, St. Augustine Prep basketball: Delaney proved to be the best big man in the Cape-Atlantic League last winter and was a solid leadership presence for a young Hermits team. His ability to perform in clutch situations helped keep the Hermits on top as one of the best programs in South Jersey.
Ethan Dodd, Egg Harbor Township basketball, baseball: At first glance it’s hard to believe that Ethan Dodd can beat you, but what he lacked in bulk he made up for with fluid movements in both sports that led to him quietly becoming one of the top athletes in the CAL. He could also play multiple positions in both sports and was just as good defensively as he was on offense.
Jaiden Abrams, Hammonton football: One of the most physically imposing running backs during his Blue Devils career, Abrams was also a top notch leader and team captain for Jim Raso’s squad.
Devin Lee, Holy Spirit football, track: Lee’s name may not have been well known, but his exploits on the football field were. He blossomed into one of the top defensive backs in the West Jersey Football League as a senior and also was a very capable running back alongside Patrick Smith. He helped lead Spirit to the No. 1 ranking in South Jersey last fall.
Noel Gonzalez, Pleasantville basketball: A 1,000-point scorer in his career, Gonzalez was the heartbeat of a rebuilding Pleasantville program. He gave 100 percent every time out on the floor and was one of the more inspiring players to watch during his career.
Ryan Master, Atlantic City baseball: Master lost his sophomore season to a torn ACL, then his junior season to Covid-19, but he came back strong as a senior this past spring, eventually becoming Atlantic City’s best all-around player and a Cape-Atlantic League All-Star.


Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays