(Our Shore Ortho Senior of the Month, sponsored by Shore Orthopaedic University Associates, highlights a senior student-athlete who exemplifies excellence both on and off the field. We consider things like athletic ability, academic achievement, leadership qualities and the athlete’s impact on the sports teams they play for and their school as a whole. Mainland Regional star running back Stephen Ordille is our choice for December 2023.)
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Staff Writer For most high school football programs, losing a player like Ja’briel Mace to graduation would be a devastating blow. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his career and was perhaps the greatest running back Mainland Regional High has ever known. As great as he was, though, he didn’t even get a chance to enjoy his single-season school rushing record for a whole year. That’s because current senior Stephen Ordille — who split time with Mace and Rocco DeBiaso in the backfield last year as a junior — snatched the record away from Mace with a historic senior campaign that was capped with the Mustangs’ first overall state championship in school history. Ordille rushed 207 times for 1,841 yards — a preposterous 8.9 yards per carry — to go along with 30 touchdowns while leading Mainland to a 14-0 record. Our December Shore Ortho Senior of the Month’s football stats are only usurped by his academic record. He carries nearly a 5.0 weighted grade-point average (meaning all A’s in high honors classes), and he’s earned just one B grade his entire high school career. And that was just one semester in a math class. “That was a discussion in the off season we had on the coaching staff — offensively, are we going to be as good this year? This is the God’s honest truth, I said, ‘I think we’re going to be better because we’ll be more well-rounded.’ Last year we really relied a lot on Ja’briel, but defenses could really scheme us because of that. I thought going into this year we would be more well-rounded, and we did become very well-rounded in the offense. Cohen (Cook) had more than 700 yards, Rocco had more than 600 yards rushing. And, of course, Stephen had 1,800-plus. He had one of those seasons to remember, that’s for sure,” said Mainland coach Chuck Smith. “Stephen was a four-year starter for us. He was one of those guys who started well before his time, but we just saw the writing on the wall (that year) that we wanted to go with the younger guys, let them get their learning lumps and go from there. The past two years he has been a team captain, so even last year when we won the sectional title, he was one of the leaders. He’s part of our 5:30 a.m. lifting club. He’s one of those guys who leads by example. He’s not necessarily an overly vocal guy but when he says something, people listen. He leads by example on the practice field, in the weight room, in the hallways, in the classroom. He has about a 4.8 GPA, he’s very polite, respectful to everyone in the hallways. He’s just a model student-athlete.” Want to be impressed even further? Ordille also was one of the best defensive backs in South Jersey. He had 63 tackles, including 11 for loss, and finished with four interceptions. He rarely came off the field, as he also was one of the team’s top kick returners. “I definitely exceeded what my expectations were going into the season. I knew I had big shoes to fill after losing Ja’briel. I knew what I was capable of, and what this team was capable of. It all worked out perfectly. It was just a great season overall, what a way to go out,” Ordille said. “Going in this season we knew what we were capable of, we knew what team we were bringing back. Everybody in that locker room, from coaches to players, we all believed that we could be the best public school team in New Jersey. We came out every week and we believed, we took it one week at a time. Coach (Tim) Watson does a great job with us through mindset stuff and he talked to us about getting better every week, coming out and winning each week. That all worked out perfectly.” Smith said Ordille is the perfect example of what a high school football player can accomplish when he dedicates himself to the game. “He’s the example of the work ethic that we have in our program — he’s the epitome of it. Guys who worked from January through August in the weight room, put their time and effort into it,” the coach said. “He worked hard on the football field, set goals and did everything within reason to attain those goals, and others followed him because he set the bar high. He’s a program player and kids see that. People have been talking about guys like Doug Strange and Brent Caprio forever around here, and they’ll be talking about Stephen that way, too. “Anybody paying attention to us last year saw that the second-half of the year he was getting more and more playing time, and Steven wound up having more than 500 yards rushing. Last year, we knew this was there, it was just a matter of us tweaking what we did last year,” Smith continued. “You never want to lose a guy like Mace, but when Ja’briel graduated we were okay because we knew we had Stephen and Rocco.” Ordille credits Mace, now a freshman at Villanova University, with helping turn him into the player he is today. “I still keep in touch with him. He’s been great to me. Those three years I was behind him, he was a great mentor. It’s great knowing I was able to break his record, and he’s happy for me. I’m grateful and honored because he’s one of the greatest running backs in school history. I learned a ton from him,” Ordille said. “When I first got there he started with me right away, teaching me different things, different cuts, how fast the game is. Transitioning from middle school football to high school football is a big difference. He was always there for me, coaching me up each and every day, making me work harder. It’s a credit to him for the season I had. He’s always helped me and I can’t thank him enough.” As for Ordille’s stellar report cards, he gives credit to his parents for that. “Education is obviously important so that comes first. I try to schedule my things out. I try to get most of my work done in school, but whatever I have left I’ll get done at night. I try not to get behind with my school work. I have practice and different stuff each day, but I always have time at night to get my work done. I always stay on top of my school work and that’s how I feel everybody should be. School definitely should come first. Being able to stay on top of everything, with football and now basketball, it’s a work in progress, but it works,” he said. “It’s just how my parents raised me, they always told me that school was always going to be my first priority, which it is. I take school very seriously and I know that someday football is going to end so I have to go out and get a good education so I can get a good job. I just try to be the best I can be at both.” Ordille scored a touchdown in every game but one this season, and he had two or more touchdowns in nine of Mainland’s 14 games. He scored five times in a 47-18 win over Atlantic City and reached pay dirt four times in the Stangs’ sectional championship win over Millville, the No. 1 team in South Jersey at the time. His worst game of the season was a 50-yard output in a blowout win over Clearview, and even then he scored on three of his seven carries. He racked up more than 100 yards in eight games, including the final six games of the season. Oh, and in that 35-13 win over Millville, which had one of the best defenses in South Jersey, all he did was rack up 250 yards on 33 carries. “It’s remarkable to have a senior year like that. I’m truly blessed, to say the least,” Ordille said. “It’s really remarkable to go from winning our first sectional championship, my junior year, since 2008, and then having this — arguably the best Mainland team in history, going 14-0. I seriously couldn’t ask for a better team, better coaches, better year. It’s just truly remarkable and something I can talk about for the rest of my life.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography.
A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.