The Ocean City High School football team got its first two wins of the season in late October after having lost their first five games.
Then came Hurricane Sandy.
And the Red Raiders found a way to be winners without ever stepping onto a football field.
The team will host Egg Harbor Township today at 7 p.m., just seven days after the first time many members of the team were able to get together following the storm.
The Red Raiders didn't bother trying to find a field to practice on that day. Football was barely mentioned at all.
Instead, about 25 members of the team and coaching staff - many of whom were hit hard by the storm - gathered and went up and down Asbury Avenue helping others.
The team went through the business district helping locals merchants and storeowners do everything from ripping up carpet and cleaning debris to sweeping floors and taking out trash.
The team showed up around 10 a.m. and many didn't leave until close to sundown.
"I'm just really proud of the way they jumped right in," Ocean City coach Kevin Smith said. "They didn't ask any questions. There was almost a sense of duty to them. I was so proud of them."
Senior Kyle Andrews was one of the players who came to help clean up Asbury Avenue.
Andrews was also one of the players hit the hardest by Sandy.
"I knew people were going to help me so why not go help somebody else," Andrews said without hesitation. "You have got to look forward and deal with what you've got and keep going."
Andrews lived in a first-floor apartment with his mother, Beth Andrews.
They grabbed whatever they could fit in two carloads in anticipation of the storm.
Kyle figured there would be severe water damage - and there was - but he never could have anticipated that a large tank in an adjacent property would tip over and mix diesel fuel with the water.
"Most of our pictures and everything got ruined, close things, personal things for our family," Andrews said. "It was rough for my mom and me. I was bummed for the first couple days. It was hard to take but we're strong. We're a strong family so everything is going to be all right."
Friends immediately helped the Andrews' out with everything from clothes and food to a place to stay while they get settled into a new apartment.
Kyle Andrews was appreciative of all the help he received from friends, teammates and even people he didn't know from around the community.
Andrews spent some time at junior Dylan Craver's house.
Craver said he was relatively lucky since he lives in a second-floor apartment on Asbury Avenue. His family helped however they could, even offering their home as a place to stay.
"A lot of people lost things that were really close to them," Craver said. "Things that insurance won't be able to replace because of the memories. It's tough seeing people's houses getting completely thrown away with everything in the trash."
The team had a small victory just being able to host tonight's game. The surrounding area suffered some serious damage but the field was largely spared. It's Senior Night for the Red Raiders.
"It's been tough," Craver said. "Everybody is coming together as a team. This is a big week for us. Hopefully we pull through."
Smith said he wasn't completely sure how everyone would respond this week at practice and at tonight's game.
If nothing else, the storm seemed to put things in perspective for the team.
"It's a good thing (playing football) because it gives them something else to focus on," Smith said. "It's been a good thing because it gets the kids into kind of a routine and a sense of normalcy.
"In other ways it feels trivial because (football) requires so much focus during the week. You want to preach the same message, but at the same time I realize that's not really the reality."
Andrews said he was looking forward to concentrating on football tonight.
The team is playing it's best football.
Frank Woolley leads the team and is fourth in the Cape-Atlantic League with 653 yards and six touchdowns.
Quarterback Joey Keyes has thrown for 352 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Schuler has emerged as Keyes' favorite target with nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.
"We're on a two-game winning streak and we're feeling real good about it," Andrews said. "We've had so much adversity with this whole football team together as a family, but our heads are on tight and ready to go.
"We have a tough game against EHT but we're going to fight."
Contact John O'Kane:
Egg Harbor Township (3-4)
at Ocean City (2-5)
When: 7 p.m. today
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