MEDFORD LAKES — Three yards were all that separated Ocean City from taking top-seeded Shawnee into the fourth quarter of the South Jersey Group 4 championship game in a one-score game. But getting a couple yards against a defense with the championship pedigree of the Renegades is a tall task.

Ocean City quarterback Joe Repetti was stopped on four consecutive runs inside the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter with Shawnee holding a 14-0 advantage, and after a tremendous goal-line stand, the Renegades put together a 97-yard drive that was capped off by senior running back Dalton Short’s 62-yard scoring run up the middle early in the fourth quarter. Shawnee scored again with 8:53 remaining to notch a 28-0 victory and wrap up its third straight sectional title and ninth in school history. Ocean City was making its first appearance in the sectional final since 2000.

The seventh-seeded Red Raiders had upset No. 2 Mainland Regional, 21-14, in the opening round, then rallied for a 21-20 victory over No. 6 Long Branch in the semifinals, but the Renegades were simply too tough with the running of Short and Thomas Rebstock, as well as sophomore quarterback Matt Wesley, who made several big plays in the passing game after breaking containment.

“They just executed better than us in every aspect of the game. They came out swinging, but we came out swinging, too. They got the better of us. They were just the better team today,” said Ocean City junior running back and linebacker Jake Inserra. “Of course we’re proud of where we made it, but we always want more. That’s something we’ll think about going into the offseason.”

“We kept saying, ‘get it to the fourth quarter within reach.’ We’ve been a good fourth-quarter team, but they were big and physical and they kind of wore us down,” added Red Raiders coach Kevin Smith.

Ocean City (8-3) got the ball to start the game and marched all the way inside the Shawnee 25-yard line, but came up empty as senior linebacker Matt Papa picked off a pass on fourth down. Wesley then connected on a couple of big pass plays as Shawnee (9-2) drove the length of the field and took a 7-0 lead on an 8-yard touchdown run by Rebstock. That was all the scoring in the first half, however, as both defenses buckled down. Shawnee had a chance for more just before halftime, but Ocean City senior defensive back Brian Beckmann blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt.

The Renegades got the ball to start the second half and didn’t waste any time taking a 14-0 lead, driving to the Ocean City 17 before Wesley scrambled left and connected with senior wideout Dom Frigiola in the corner of the end zone. But the Red Raiders answered right back, driving from their own 31 to the Shawnee 3-yard line thanks to a big first-down conversion run by Repetti, a key pass play from Repetti to Jake Schneider, and a couple of nice runs from Inserra. But once Ocean City got inside Shawnee’s 5-yard line, the Renegade defense wouldn’t budge, coming up with a huge stand that turned the momentum of the game.

“(Wesley) did a really nice job extending plays, running around and making things happen. From an Xs and Os standpoint, I thought we were fine. We weren’t in any situations where we felt like we were out-leveraged. That wasn’t the issue, the issue was up front physically, and that kid doing a nice job extending plays,” Smith said. “We’ve been improving every year for the last four or five years and we’re close. We went toe-to-toe with them for three quarters, and if we could have gotten in on that first-and-goal it’s a one-score game going into the fourth quarter. But we didn’t, and that’s why they are a championship team. They made a stand then wore us down in the fourth quarter and it got away from us a little bit.”

Smith said this year’s seniors should be proud of themselves, considering the difficult start they had to their high school careers on the freshman team four years ago.

“We’re really not that interested in moral victories, honestly. We got to a championship game and felt like we were in the football game,” he said. “I’m super proud of the effort all season long. The seniors are going to disappointed, and they should be, but they should also be very proud of themselves. They had a great run. That group of seniors were 1-7 as freshmen, so to go from 1-7 to the South Jersey Group 4 championship speaks a lot about those guys and how hard they worked.”

What’s next: Ocean City hosts Pleasantville on Thanksgiving Day, 10 a.m. Shawnee takes on Central Jersey Group 4 champion Hammonton, a 28-12 winner over Jackson Memorial in its title game, in the South/Central Group 4 bowl game.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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