Here are a couple of things I like about the Mainland Regional High School football team this season.
1. Seniors - The Mustangs have veterans everywhere. There's Ryan Brenner and Colin O'Shea at linebacker and Tom Bradway at defensive back. Seniors win especially this year in what promises to be a rugged and physically-demanding Cape-Atlantic League American Conference.
2. Jim Cooper - Normally it's a problem when your best player is a kicker. But that's not the case with Mainland. Cooper is one of the state's best and could mean the difference in two to three games this season. He needs seven field goals to break the state record of 30. He booted eight last season. His kickoffs pin opponents deep and give the Mustangs a field-position advantage.
Here's Mainland at a glance:
League: Cape-Atlantic American
Group: South Jersey Group V
Coach: Bob Coffey (170-91-2, 27 years)
Last season’s record: 5-5
Playoff appearances: 14
Playoff record: 21-8
2012 prediction: Contender – The Mustangs won their final two games last season and had an outstanding offseason of preparation, according to Coffey.
Game to watch: Nov. 2 vs. St. Joseph – The Mustangs host the defending state Non-Public I champions. A playoff berth could be on the line. These teams have scrimmaged each other in the preseason for years.
Key Returnees: Jim Cooper, Sr., K, 6-1, 213; Ryan Brenner, Sr., G/LB, 6-2, 200; Colin O’Shea, Sr., LB/RB, 6-0, 185; Tom Bradway, Sr., QB/DB, 5-9, 175; Tim Reed, Sr., TE/LB, 509, 180; Tim Lenzch, Sr., LB, 5-10, 185; Jake Snook, Sr., DB/WR, 5-10, 180; Joe Sutor, Sr., LB/WR, 5-10, 175; Tracy Kuddar, T, 6-0, 250; Fernando Mayers, Sr., RB/DE, 6-0, 190; David Donovan, Jr., OT/DE, 6-3, 230.
Top newcomers: Alex Denafo, Sr., RB, 5-10, 180; Brett Edmunds, Sr., RB, 5-10, 180; Kyle Beattie, Sr., C, 6-0, 218; Mike Bucca, Jr., OL, 5-11, 222; Kenny Randall, Jr., OT, 6-3, 80.