By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
First-year Oakcrest football coach Eric Anderson is doing everything he can to avoid the hype. Yes, he knows it’s a big game for his Falcons, who started the season 2-0 with convincing wins over Ocean City and Buena Regional. And, yes, he knows fans are intrigued because his team will be going up against former head coach Chuck Smith, who now is the head coach at Mainland Regional.
But Anderson said to him, Friday night’s matchup (6 p.m., at Mainland) is just another on the schedule. He said he’s more focused on getting his team ready to play another quality game so the Falcons can continue to work toward their ultimate goal — a spot in the state playoffs.
“It’s business as usual for us. There’s obviously a little extra since he used to coach here, but for us it’s business as usual,” Anderson said. “There may be some wrinkles that we’ll throw in this week, but nothing too special. We both have a good idea of what’s coming. Let’s just play some football.”
Anderson said his team is beginning to feel confident after outscoring its first two opponents 68-6, but he’s doing everything he can to remind his players that a hot start doesn’t mean much if they don’t continue to build toward a strong finish to the season.
“They are definitely excited. It’s the first time they’ve beaten Buena in a long time,” Anderson said. “Buena is tough. They are well coached and disciplined, so it was nice to get that ‘W.’ I just try to keep them focused and keep them humble and keep telling them we are going for the ultimate goal, which is trying to win every game.”
Anderson said he knew the Falcons would be a tough team this season, but outscoring the first two opponents by more than 60 points certainly took him by surprise.
“I didn’t expect that at all. I knew we would be tough defensively, and offensively I knew we would be good. But our offensive line has let us do what we want and that’s a huge component to our success so far,” Anderson said. “Buena did a good job of scouting us. They pretty much dropped eight back into coverage every time, so (quarterback Kendall Elliott) was just sitting back there with them only rushing three against our five. At halftime, I said, ‘look, if they keep rushing eight and nobody is open, just tuck it and go and see what you can get.”
Buena tried to neutralize Oakcrest’s high-powered passing attack by flooding the defensive backfield with bodies, but the Chiefs’ strategy ultimately backfired, as Elliott rushed for 160 yards. Most of that yardage came when Elliott couldn’t find an open receiver and took off downfield.
Mainland (0-2) better be ready defensively for the Falcons, who have rolled up more than 800 yards of total offense in just two games, including more than 500 rushing yards.
Other Friday night matchups
Pleasantville at Riverside, 6 p.m.: The Greyhounds are gaining confidence, particularly after hanging with Buena Regional in the season opener. They are coming off a bye week, while Riverside is coming off a 45-0 loss to Schalick.
Bridgeton at Atlantic City, 6 p.m.: Both teams are coming in searching for their first win, and both teams have some quality athletes. Expect some scoring in this one. Bridgeton put up 24 points in a loss to Clearview last week, but allowed 49. Atlantic City nearly beat Washington Township last week, but the Minutemen rallied late to steal a 16-14 victory.
Middle Township at Buena Regional, 6 p.m.: The Panthers (1-1) have a shot at closing the gap on Holy Spirit (2-0), which leads the West Jersey Football League’s United Division. Shawn Scott blitzed the Mainland defense for 175 yards and three touchdowns last week, so the Chiefs will have to come up with a big effort defensively to stay in the game. Offensively, Buena needs someone besides quarterback Jake Maxwell to get chunks of yardage so Buena can control the clock and the pace of the game.
Lower Cape May Regional at Holy Spirit, 6 p.m.: The Spartans are flying high after a huge, 17-14 overtime upset of St. Joseph last Saturday. Don’t expect a let-down here.
St. Augustine Prep at Millville, 6 p.m.: The Hermits are one of the best teams in South Jersey on both sides of the ball, but Millville typically is very tough to beat at home. If the Thunderbolts can keep the score down into the second half they’ll have a shot, but it won’t be easy to contain Hermits running back Kyle Dobbins, who has more than 500 yards already — in just three games.
Cedar Creek at Ocean City, 6 p.m.: The Red Raiders face one of their toughest opponents of the year. The Pirates are 2-0 and beat Delsea last Saturday as Isaiah Watson piled up more than 200 yards from scrimmage. Cedar Creek creates a host of matchup problems for the Red Raiders’ defense.
Egg Harbor Township at Vineland, 6 p.m.: If the Eagles can’t stop the run, they’re in trouble. Vineland has quarterback Isaih Pacheco and tailback Davion Seymore, and they like to pound opposing defenses into submission. It’s going to be a tough night for the EHT front seven. The Eagles can’t afford any turnovers and need to sustain drives to keep Vineland’s offense off the field as much as possible.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN