ATLANTIC CITY - The games on along the bay at Atlantic City High School here are always windy, but Friday's boys' soccer game between the host Vikings and Vineland seems more so than usual. The ground-shaking sounds of the Vikings' marching band practicing in the background adds a surreal atmosphere to it all.
Not that the Vikings are that bothered by the conditions. They jump out to a 2-0 first half lead over the Fighting Clan in a battle of unbeaten 2-0 teams. Coming into the match, the buzz among the local high school community was about Vineland, which added a high-profile notch to its belt with an earlier win over perennial power Ocean City.
Before the game, Vineland coach Eric Spinnato walks among his players, urging them to compete to the highest level of their abilities. They seem to take him to heart, with captain Josh Edgar being particularly vocal in the warm-ups.
Over on the other side of the field, Atlantic City High School senior Max Woerner, an 18-year-old from Margate, stretches on his own while collecting his thoughts. Woerner, an outside left back, has a real soccer mind based on his past performances. He's also a tad sentimental when it comes to his last season on the scholastic soccer pitch.
"After such a poor season last year, we're looking to rebuild," Woerner says. "We're expecting Vineland to be a skilled team, and our main goal will be to disrupt their play in the midfield."
But it's Atlantic City that has all the early running. Omar Morales, aptly wearing No. 3, garbs his third goal of the season (the Vineland coaches think it might be an own goal. But their worst fears are realized when Arturo Morales makes it 2-0 with a clinical strike.
The Vineland coaches try to rally their troops at halftime, telling them that "this is the time to find out something about yourselves." But the final score ends up 3-0, as Atlantic City goalkeeper Jose Aranda stops a ton of Vineland shots and Woerner and the defense hold. With the win, the Vikings move to 3-0 while the Clan falls to 2-1.
"They (Atlantic City) capitalized when they had to and beat us fair and square," Spinnato says afterward. "We're at a little loss for words right now."