South Jersey Sports Report: OC-Mainland Rivalry Has Family Ties
The Hatfields and the McCoys were feuding families along the West Virginia and Kentucky border in the mid-1800s, and there were skirmishes and violence surrounding the families for decades along the Big Sandy River. Tourists now visit the area to check out historic relics, and the names have been synonymous with family feuds ever since.
Tonight, a “family feud” of sorts will take place at The Corral, Mainland Regional High School’s home football field in Linwood, as the Mustangs welcome in bitter rival Ocean City in a game that has huge West Jersey Football League implications and has even sparked a brand new trophy the teams will be playing for in what is now being called “The Battle for the Bridge” in reference to the 9th Street bridge that connects Somers Point to Ocean City. Mainland is 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Independence Division, a half-game behind the Red Raiders (6-1, 4-0), so the division title is on the line, and there’s also a bit of bad blood on the part of Ocean City, which watched as a Mainland player “planted” the Mustang flag at midfield on the turf at Carey Stadium last year after then-senior Sean Carey nailed a 40-plus-yard field goal in the waning seconds to give Mainland a 24-21 victory.
There are all kinds of connections between these schools and football programs. Tom Jamison is a teacher and track coach at Mainland and his son, Brad, is the starting tight end at Ocean City. Tom’s brother, Matt, is a former Mainland teacher who now is the principal at Ocean City, and the Williscroft family ties run deep in the rivalry as well. The elder Mike Williscroft is on the coaching staff at Ocean City and younger Mike is a starting lineman, while Maddie is a former soccer star at Mainland and Rowan who has returned home to become a part of Chris Connolly’s coaching staff for the Mustangs’ girls soccer team.
But perhaps the most interesting connection is one that is likely to cause a lot of stress for one particular mom tonight. Sue Repetti is the mother of Ocean City starting quarterback Joe Repetti, and she also is a former star athlete at Mainland and current teacher — who has Mainland football players in her math classes and has been hearing all week about how they are going to sack her son.
“I have a couple of them in class and it’s all in good fun. It’s been funny though because people have been asking me how I am all week. I’m fine with it, although I’m not sure how I’ll be (tonight) at the game. The kids are funny. There’s one player in particular who I go back and forth with all the time, he puts the teams’ records on the board. He asked me, ‘if I end up sacking Joe, are you going to be mad at me?’ I joked around and said, ‘I won’t be mad at you … but you might fail my class.’ So, yeah, it’s been fun walking through the halls. One of our SROs, he has a kid who went to Atlantic City and he went to St. Augustine Prep and whenever they played it was a big deal, so he’s been asking me and Tom how we are doing all week,” said Sue, a 1991 graduate who was an all-South Jersey basketball player and also was a standout in field hockey and softball. “Tom Jamison is a teacher here and he’s one of our track coaches. Tom’s brother, Matt, was a history teacher at Mainland and now he’s the principal over at Ocean City, so there’s the whole Jamison tie-in, too.”
“She does have players in class and she always comes home with stories about them talking about the game, talking about sacking me and stuff like that,” Joe said after the Red Raiders beat Oakcrest last Saturday. “She really wants us to win. I did grow up a Mainland fan until I was about 10 years old. I would always go to Mainland practices, wear Mainland shirts and hang out with the girls basketball team, but now it’s all Ocean City Red Raiders.”
Sue was known by her maiden name, Devlin, during her high school days and that name is very familiar to Mustangs fans, as her older sister, Jen (now Jen Conner), was an all-state softball player. The sisters combined to earn 23 varsity letters. Sue spent some time teaching at Oakcrest before returning to Mainland in 2001 and she was the head girls basketball coach for five years, during which time her sons, Joe and Sean (now a freshman at Ocean City) would don Mainland gear and come to Mustangs practices and games.
AND, in an even bigger twist, Sue’s husband, Cliff, a Sayrville native, had a roommate when he moved down to this area — none other than current Mainland football coach Chuck Smith! The two were college teammates and fraternity brothers.
“You don’t really think of all these connections until you really start looking into it. It’s a big web that has all come together. When I was coaching, my boys would always have Mainland gear on and they would sit on the bench with me when I was coaching games, and all their babysitters were Mainland basketball players,” Sue said. “But when Joe was about 10 or 11 years old he started saying, ‘no, I’m Ocean City now.’ And he didn’t want to sit on the bench anymore. As teachers at Mainland we can bring our kids here and my younger son would say he wanted to attend Mainland with me but Joe always wanted to go to Ocean City. I kept saying that neither one of them, by the time they were in eighth grade, would want to come to Mainland because all their friends and teammates would be going to Ocean City.”
Sue admits there has been a lot of hype surrounding this game, but she said it hasn’t affected Joe — at least not that he’ll ever admit to.
“Joe has been handling it very well, I’ve been very impressed. He’s very calm and cool and I like how he’s handled everything,” she said. “He’s treating it like any other game, but he knows that — by far — it’s the biggest game that he’ll have played in to date, so he’s excited for it. He’s a very even-keeled kid, so even if he is nervous you’d never know it, so that’s good.”
Now, when it comes to a game of this magnitude, apparel is very important. Today, most Mainland students will be adorned in green-and-white clothing as a way to get psyched for the game and show support for their beloved Mustangs. For her part, Sue has found a way to be as neutral as possible — showing some support for her students, but also letting it be known that as a mom, devotion to her son comes first.
“I actually have a shirt from last year that says ‘War at the Shore’ and it has a Mainland helmet and an Ocean City helmet on it. So, for school (today), even though it’s a green-and-white day, I’ll have that shirt on because I can’t go full green-and-white,” she said. “I may be changing for the game and sporting an Ocean City sweatshirt for that.”
Joe said he’s been enjoying the lead-up to tonight’s game, but when it comes to apparel, he doesn’t like to even think about ever wearing anything green.
“It’s great because you know almost everybody across the ball, you know almost the names of everybody. You’re going against guys you’ve known since you were younger, playing other sports with them and stuff. It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” he said. “If I do have any (Mainland gear) left I’m going to burn it this week.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays