By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

Oakcrest football coach Mike Forest, who is in his second year guiding the Falcons, said his first mission when taking over the program was to change the culture. The next step was to start winning some games so that players could start to understand and believe that the work they were going through to get better was going to pay off.

So far, so good in Year 2, as Oakcrest has jumped out to a 2-0 start after suffering through a 3-7 campaign in Forest’s first season as skipper. The Falcons grinded out a 7-6 win at Vineland in Week 0, then went on the road again to beat Middle Township, 24-10, last Friday night.

Now, it’s a step up in competition as the Falcons host Mainland Regional on Friday at 6 p.m. — a Mustangs team that is smarting from a 21-20 loss to rival Ocean City last week.

Here’s an inside look at our Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week, Mainland at Oakcrest, Friday, 6 p.m.:

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Oakcrest had a pretty balanced offensive attack last week in the win over Middle Township, as the Falcons ran for 182 yards and quarterback Marcus Lee completed 10-of-16 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Mainland thrived on the big play against Ocean City, as senior running back Ja’Briel Mace ripped off a 79-yard touchdown run and Cohen Cook had a long run that set up his own 1-yard scoring run. Defensively, though, the Mustangs were hurt in the passing game as Ocean City senior quarterback Riley Gunnels heated up in the second half and ended up throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns, completing an impressive 20-of-34 passes.

Oakcrest senior wide receiver Aldrich Doe could be a matchup nightmare for the Mainland Regional secondary. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

DOE’NT TEST HIM: If Mainland thinks it can get away with 1-on-1 coverage against Oakcrest star receiver Aldrich Doe, the Mustangs better think again. Last week, Doe had six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown — by far Lee’s favorite target. Doe has more than 600 yards receiving in his career and last season nearly 25 percent of his catches went for touchdowns. Mainland will have to find a way to contain him, but it’s not easy. He’s 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, fast and agile, and has great leaping ability. His older brother, Harrison, was a standout receiver during his time at Oakcrest.

YOUNG QBS: The quarterbacks for each team are very inexperienced, as Lee is a first-year starter and Mainland is going with freshman John Franchini in the absence of Marlon Leslie, who transferred back to Pleasantville prior to the start of the regular season. Mainland does have a wrinkle in its offensive game, though, as Cook comes in a lot as a running quarterback and has had a lot of success so far in the first two games. Franchini had a ton of success at the eighth-grade level and he’s starting to get more comfortable in the pocket.

Stopping Mainland star running back Ja’Briel Mace will be a key focus of the Oakcrest defense. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Oakcrest’s defensive front seven vs. Mainland’s running game. Mace is a handful, and a Villanova commit, but he was a little banged up in the loss to Ocean City last week. If he’s at full strength, Mainland has one of the better rushing attacks in Atlantic County. Cook also provides another challenge for the Falcons up front, and Mainland can even throw in Stephen Ordille, a very tough runner, to spell Mace. Oakcrest also tends to have a lot of guys play both offense and defense, so we’ll see if Mainland is able to wear the Falcons down by the fourth quarter.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Stephen Ordille, Mainland RB: He may get more touches with Mace getting a little banged up last week, and can also be a factor in the return game. J.J. Sinclair, Mainland MLB: He and the rest of the linebacking crew will have their work cut out for them trying to stop an Oakcrest rushing attack that put up nearly 200 yards last week. Sam Mensah, Oakcrest RB: He had 132 yards on just 12 carries in the win over Oakcrest. Tauheed Hill, Oakcrest, CB: The junior was all over the field against Middle, racking up three solo tackles and eight assisted tackles. Amir Tinsley, Oakcrest WR: He had seven catches for 36 yards in the win over Middle, and may get targeted more if Mainland pays a lot of attention to Doe on the outside. 

COMING HOME: This will be an interesting game for Mainland coach Chuck Smith, who had a very successful run for a number of years as head coach of the Falcons, including several state playoff berths, before heading over to Mainland, where his coaching career began.

BROTHERS, COUSINS, RIVALS: There’s another back story to these two coaching staffs, as the Clements boys will be going head to head. Andre and cousin Mark are both Oakcrest graduates who now are assistant coaches at Mainland, while current Oakcrest assistant John Clements, Mark’s brother, went to St. Joseph in Hammonton.

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