MAYS LANDING — The Ocean City football team only has three permanent captains, but each week the Red Raiders’ coaching staff selects a “captain of the game” based on who worked the hardest that week in practice. This week the honor went to junior safety Brady Rauner, and he took it seriously. Being named a game captain means you’re expected to perform at your best, and Rauner did just that, picking off two passes and leading a strong defensive effort on Saturday afternoon as the Red Raiders handled host Oakcrest, 34-7.

With the win, Ocean City improved to 6-1 and set up a huge showdown at rival Mainland Regional on Friday night in a game that likely will decide the champion of the West Jersey Football League Independence Division.

“That was a big honor. I knew my teammates wanted me to step up and be the captain for the week, so I tried to do as much as I could to help us get the win today,” said Rauner, who was named a game day captain for the first time in his career. “I think it’s just busting your tail all week, coach (Kevin) Smith got us all together (on Thursday), that’s when he lets us know. I was really excited and I knew it was time to step up for my teammates when they needed me.”

The defense did its job right from the opening whistle, giving the Red Raiders offense short fields to work with on their first three possessions, and the offensive unit cashed in behind quarterback Joe Repetti and running back Issac Wilson, sprinting out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter.

Oakcrest (2-6, 1-3) went three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, and after a short punt into the wind Ocean City (6-1, 4-0) took over at the Falcons’ 28-yard line. A fourth-down swing pass from Repetti to Jake Schneider kept the drive alive and helped set up Repetti’s 5-yard scoring pass to tight end Brad Jamison for a 6-0 lead. Rauner picked off a pass on Oakcrest’s next possession, at the Falcons’ 34, and two plays later it was 13-0 after a tremendous diving catch in the end zone by Brian Beckmann and Brendan McGonigle’s extra point.

“It was real key, we needed to get the ball rolling and driving down the field. Once we got rolling, we kept driving and getting first down after first down and putting the ball in the end zone,” Repetti said of Ocean City’s fast start. “That was a helluva catch. I saw the safety wasn’t pedaling, he just sat there, so I just dropped back and threw it over top to Beckmann. It was a little out of his reach, I thought, but then he dove with outstretched arms. He landed on the ball, too. It was a helluva catch, it knocked the wind out of him. I tried talking to him and he couldn’t even talk.”

The Red Raiders scored again following another Falcons punt, as a big run from Wilson highlighted a short drive that was capped with Repetti’s 1-yard quarterback sneak to push the lead to 20-0 with 1:39 left in the first quarter. Repetti threw for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more, Schneider had 112 receiving yards, and Rauner finished with two interceptions and could have had three had he not dropped one early in the game.

“That’s why they say if you can’t catch you go play DB,” he joked in the postgame interview. “I saw my corner come down on my man, he made a nice break on the ball and tipped it up. I went to go get it, it tipped off my hands, I went down and almost caught it, then finally caught it on my back.

“They have some big dudes, especially at the linebacker position, but our offense was able to push them back and we did an excellent job getting yards and putting points up on the board.”

Oakcrest finally got its offense rolling in the second quarter as quarterback Angel Casanova hooked up with Sebastian Terrones on a 29-yard scoring strike down the middle. Ocean City answered, however, late in the second quarter as an Oakcrest penalty on a potential field goal gave the Red Raiders a first down inside the 5-yard line, and Wilson pounded it in for his second touchdown of the day and a 27-7 lead. The Falcons had a shot to cut the lead in half just before halftime, but a long touchdown pass from Casanova to Imaari Andrews with less than 10 seconds remaining before halftime was called back because of a holding penalty.

Rauner and Repetti said the fast start by the offense, coupled with a great performance by the defense, was exactly how the Red Raiders wanted this divisional matchup to shake out.

“Every time our defense steps on the field our main thing is to get them to go four-and-out. Our main goal is to stop them, make them punt and give our offense good field position to work with, and that’s what we did today,” Rauner said. “We have a big game (against Mainland), the battle for the bridge. We’re really psyched up, we just had to make sure we finished business here before we get ready to play them.”

Added Repetti, “We decided right out of the gate, like we do every game, to try to put them down early. We just tried to get them out of whack and put the ball in the end zone, put as many points as we could up as fast as possible.”

What’s next: Ocean City travels to Mainland on Friday at 6 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays