The Mainland Regional High School football team won its final two games of the 2011 season to finish 5-5.
The Mustangs beat Seneca 31-13 on Nov. 11 and then defeated rival Egg Harbor Township 13-9 on Thanksgiving.
Those victories gave the Mustangs plenty of momentum headed into this season.
Mainland coach Bob Coffey said the Mustangs couldn’t have worked any harder or better than they did in the offseason
“We’re very strong and well-conditioned,” Coffey said. “The kids are good athletes, and there are lots of them.”
Senior quarterback and defensive back Tom Bradway said the team is well ahead of where it was at this time last year.
“We have things put in that we didn’t even get to last year,” he said.
Bradway, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior, has started at quarterback for three years but could have more of an impact at defensive back this season.
“He’s an outstanding defensive player,” Coffey said, “and for him not to play back there would be a sin.
“He’s the quarterback of the defense. He recognizes all the offense’s formations. He’s a great cover guy.”
Mainland’s best-known player may be senior kicker Jim Cooper, who is headed to Temple University. Cooper has 24 career field goals just six shy of the state record held by Ron Juliano, a 1990 Lenape graduate, and Gil Gutierrez, a 1988 St. John Vianney graduate.
“He’s made the difference in five or six games in his career,” Coffey said of Cooper.
“When he kicks off, you know the other team is going to get the ball at the 20-yard line because he’s going to kick it in the end zone for a touchback.”
Mainland returns six starters on offense and five on defense. Linebackers Colin O’Shea and Ryan Brenner will spark the defense.
Juniors Mike Bucca and Kenny Randall lead the offensive line. Fernando Mayers emerged as the top running back at the end of last season with a touchdown against Seneca.
“We just have to take one week at a time,” said Coffey invoking the old coach’s cliché about what to expect this season.
“I think we can hang in there with everybody. We have Holy Spirit and St. Joe (both defending state champions), but I know we can play with these guys.”
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