|High School Football:
Mainland Wins Cape Clash over Ocean City
Friday, October 13, 2000
By Ed Benkin
SJSports Staff Writer
It may be the best rivalry in South Jersey. The annual Cape Atlantic American Division battle between Mainland and Ocean City isn't the oldest rivalry in the region, but it has become the most intense since the two schools emerged as Group 3 powerhouses in recent years. The game always leaves fans at the edge of their seats in the final minute of play, and the 2000 edition was no exception. The two 3-1 teams clashed in Linwood last Friday in front of a packed house on a beautiful autumn night, and the host Mustangs outlasted the Red Raiders, 20-12. Ocean City was driving for the potential game-tying score in the final minute when cornerback Jake Dickerson picked off a deflected pass from quarterback Rich Henshaw to seal the victory. It was the second straight loss for Ocean City and the fourth straight win for Mainland. It was also a night of revenge for the Mustangs, who were upset by the Red Raiders in last year's Group 3 final.
"It feels great to beat them," said Mainland tight end Tom Kohr. "We were pretty disappointed last year. We knew we had the talent to win a tough game like this."
Kohr was largely responsible for the Mainland victory. The senior hauled in two touchdown passes from quarterback Jordan Thomas. The first score came late in the first half as Thomas found Kohr in the right corner of the end zone to give Mainland a 13-6 lead. In the third quarter, Thomas hit Kohr with a strike over the middle, and the senior did the rest by spinning away from two defenders and running into the middle of the end zone. The 38-yard score gave the Mustangs a 20-6 lead. Kohr did not get any passes thrown his way early in the first half, but was happy to get more involved as the game went on.
"I definitely like catching the football," Kohr said. "But as long as we win, I'm happy."
Ocean City refused to quit and cut the Mainland lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. Henshaw dove in from one yard out on a quarterback sneak to make the score 20-12. Ocean City's defense was able to hold Mainland and give it's offense one more chance, but Dickerson's interception ended the Red Raiders' hopes for a comeback. It also set off the celebration at the Mainland Coral, where the Mustangs are now 23-3 in night games since lights were installed five years ago.
Few people expected Mainland to be 4-1 after suffering a loss to Moorestown on opening night. Many believed the Mustangs would be forced to rebuild, especially with a brutal division schedule ahead of them. Instead, Mainland is tied for first place with Vineland atop the division, and is once again in the hunt for the Group 3 championship. Thomas was particularly impressive against the Red Raiders. The junior completed 12 of 18 passes along with the two touchdowns to Kohr. With Thomas continuing to improve, Mainland is getting the type of balance on offense needed to contend for the title.
"It was really easy to get discouraged with our schedule," said Kohr. "But we knew we could beat a great team like Ocean City."
The 3-2 Red Raiders will need to regroup in a hurry. Up next for Ocean City is powerful Egg Harbor Township, and a third loss could put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. However, Ocean City made the post-season cut with a 5-3 mark last year, and went on to win the championship. It won't get any easier for Mainland, either. The Mustangs will play Absegami, Vineland and Atlantic City before the cutoff. The three teams have a combined record of 10-5.
"Our coaching staff does a great job," Kohr said. "We're already prepping for the next game."
Don't be surprised if Mainland and Ocean City meet again in the Group 3 playoffs. It would be another guaranteed classic.