By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY — Mainland Regional senior running back Stephen Ordille changed his jersey number this season, from 27 to 17. Fellow senior Hunter Watson went from No. 11 to No. 7. They wanted to get back to the numbers they had been familiar with wearing throughout their youth football careers.

The Mustangs played with the youthful joy of pee wee players on Friday morning kicking off the Battle at the Beach showcase at Carey Stadium, and nobody was more exuberant than Ordille. Mostly a backup last year to record-setting back Ja’briel Mace, now a freshman at Villanova, now is the time for Ordille to shine. And he took full advantage of that opportunity during the first game in the state for the 2023 season.

Ordille rushed 14 times for 128 yards and a score — that touchdown coming early in the third quarter and helping to cement a 26-7 victory for Mainland. Liam Kennedy added a 15-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter to close out the scoring and a dominant second half by the Mustangs, who led just 13-7 going into halftime.

Mainland tight end Hunter Watson takes a big hit from a Washington Township defender after making a catch near the sideline during the Mustangs’ season-opening win over the Minutemen at the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“They are a Group 5 team, a powerhouse team, so coming out here and showing what we’re about — that was a great feeling,” Ordille said. “Coming out in the second half, we turned up the energy a little bit, got our feet under ourselves and we came out and were successful. We graduated a lot of kids, but we brought back a lot of studs. Coming into this year, we have high intentions and we came out strong. It’s senior year and I have to put everything out there, so coming out strong is the plan.”

Mainland got off to an auspicious start as Rocco DeBiaso scored on the first play from scrimmage — an 81-yard scamper followed by a Nate Kashey point after that gave the Stangs a 7-0 lead before the cheese was even melted on fans’ morning bagels. DeBiaso finished with 123 yards on just seven carries.

“It came off a bad snap so we had to run the play again, so my mindset was just to go. I was coming around the edge and Cohen Cook and Stephen Ordille set great blocks for me and I just turned it up and got it in (to the end zone). That felt awesome, I’ve never had a better feeling in my life,” DeBiaso said. “Being home and thinking about it, the only thing I wanted to do was turn up here. It’s a great start to the season. We’re just trying to send a statement. A lot of teams think about how we lost seniors like Ja’briel Mace, who’s a helluva player, but we just want to come in here and dominate every day.”

Running back Stephen Ordille talks about Mainland’s 26-7 win over Washington Township.

The Stangs (1-0, 0-0 West Jersey Football League United) scored on their second play from scrimmage as well, as following a bad snap on a punt, Cohen Cook ran it in from 11 yards out to give Mainland a 13-0 lead. Washington Township (0-1, 0-0 WJFL Continental) got back into the game later in the first quarter when quarterback Jared Dzierzgowski capped off a long drive with a 1-yard run. But other than that, the Minutemen were held in check, as Mainland limited them to 88 passing yards and 90 on the ground on 36 carries. The Stangs, meanwhile, piled up 288 rushing yards on 37 carries — one of which was Ordille’s nifty 58-yard touchdown run down the left side. He was nearly stopped for a short gain but spun out of a couple of tackles and was gone.  

“I kept my legs moving. I felt contact right away and I kind of hit a 360, I looked and I saw green so I just kept my legs turning, and found the end zone,” he said. “We were stoked (for this game). We had practice in the morning all week (to get ready) for this game. We were ready for this game, we were so stoked being the first game in New Jersey.”

Mainland couldn’t have asked for a better start. Despite dealing with intermittent downpours and wind to start the day, sophomore quarterback John Franchini was 4-of-9 for 54 yards. The Stangs’ defense also chipped in with a pair of interceptions, by Ordille and Jamie Tyson, and forced three turnovers in total.

Said Ordille, “coming out here and showing what we did — beating a good Group 5 school — they’re a great program and we came out and showed what we’re all about. It’s a great start to the season.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Mainland hosts Ocean City on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. Washington Township hosts Eastern on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.

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