Updated: Aug 31, 2022
The New Jersey interscholastic high football season kicks off this weekend at the historic Carey Stadium located at 500 Boardwalk in Ocean City. The West Jersey Football Coaches Association is hosting its second annual Battle at the Beach, with this year's slate featuring high profile programs from two different states.
(Video By: Gridiron Access )
Last year's event netted three out-of-state programs from Pennsylvania and Maryland for the inaugural kickoff. This year, four Pennsylvania programs, including three-time state champion Thomas Jefferson, will travel to showcase their talents under the gleaming lights of Ocean City.
Without any further ado, here’s a preview of Friday’s games, including matchups, scheduled kickoff times, team breakdowns, and players to watch in each game:
Egg Harbor Township vs. Mainland, 10 am
Senior quarterback Christian Rando returns for EHT after throwing for 615 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions last season. Senior Xavier Bullock emerged as one of Rando's top targets. The senior hauled in 16 catches for 315 yards and four touchdowns. The Eagles will look to defeat Mainland for the first time since 2017.
Mainland looks to pick up a key West Jersey Football League United Division win after concluding last season on a three-game losing streak. The Mustangs defeated Egg Harbor Township, 14-6, in last year's meeting. Villanova commit Ja'Briel Mace is the catalyst for Mainland's offense and will look to hit the ground running behind the powerful Paul Lombardo. The Mustangs are also expected to start freshman quarterback John Franchini with the transfer of Marlon Leslie. Junior Cohen Cook is a dynamic, three-sport athlete that could add a dimension to the offense.
Cedar Grove vs. Salem, 1 pm
Cedar Grove returns four starters on offense and seven starters on defense from last year’s NJSIAA North Group 1 regional championship squad.
The Rams are eager to solidify themselves as one of the premier Group 1 schools in the Garden State. The Rams captured the NJSIAA South/Central Group 1 regional title and finished with a record in 2021. Senior quarterback Jahki Coates accumulated 1,389 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions through the air. Coates holds an offer from Temple. Junior WR Ramaji Bundy has established chemistry with his signal caller and secured 36 catches for 670 yards and 9 nine touchdowns last season. Anthony Selby diversifies Salem's offensive approach with his ability to carry the football behind the blue and white's bulky offensive frontier. Amare Smith and Cameron Smith are players to keep an eye on when the Rams are on defense.
Downingtown West (PA) vs. Highland, 4 pm
Senior tailback John Mulville returns for the Whippets after racking up 731 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. The Chester County school also returns experienced wide receiver Jake Kucera. Kucera hauled in seven catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. The junior will look to build on a promising sophomore campaign. Downingtown West returns a few of its top tacklers from a season ago. Senior linebacker Harrison Hayford led the unit with 55 total tackles last season. Senior Carter Grear also provides a punch, accumulating 46 tackles.
Long Island commit Angelo Rodriguez will be the focal point of Highland's offense. Rodriguez rushed for an astounding 1,387 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Junior quarterback Connor Leary threw for 719 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021, and was the beneficiary of a substantial growth spurt during the offseason. The Tartans returns eight starters on each side of the ball and will lean on that experience to establish an early edge and earn a key early season victory.
Neshaminy (PA) vs. Ocean City, 7 pm
Ocean City returns four starters on offense and three starters on defense. Junior quarterback Riley Gunnels tallied 1,253 passing yards and took care of the football, evidenced by his 17-3 touchdown to interception ratio in 2021. His primary target will be Jack Hoag, who will be deployed in multiple roles within the offense. The senior racked up 675 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns, and can find additional yardage in space.
Neshaminy is expected to start junior Colin Baker who threw for 141 yards, a touchdown, and a pair of interceptions in the backup role in 2021. Junior RB Travis Lavelah returns after rushing for 454 yards and two touchdowns in a running back by committee role for Neshaminy last year. Leading tacklers Markus Barnett and Nick Buchys return for their respective senior campaigns.