South Jersey Group II football semifinal preview: Willingboro at Cedar Creek

Miles Pease, right, of St. Joseph HIgh School tries to break away from the grasp of Mainland Regional’s Ryan Brenner during a game this month. Pease has rushed for 521 yards on 110 carries.

Mainland Regional High School senior Ryan Brenner likes the football and education at Wagner College.

Brenner, a three-year starter for Mainland, has committed to Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y., and will be an outside linebacker for the Seahawks. He'll receive a partial academic scholarship, but could earn an athletic scholarship if he gets playing time.

"They recruited me, and I'm on their roster," said Brenner, a 17-year-old Northfield resident. "I'm excited about their recent success. They're starting to schedule tough schools, and I'm excited to be in that situation."

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Wagner, of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, was 9-4 last year and won the Northeast Conference for the first time. The team lost three close games to begin the season, and won nine straight before losing to Eastern Washington 29-19 in an NCAA second-round playoff game.

Along the way, the Seagulls beat two ranked FCS teams, No. 19 Albany (30-0) and No. 24 Colgate (31-20 in the NCAA first round). Wagner has been coached by Walt Hameline since 1981. Bridgeton High School graduate Dominique Williams was Wagner's leading rusher last season with 1,328 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Lacey Township's Jarrod Molzon and St. Augustine Prep's Regan O'Connor are also on the roster.

Brenner, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, committed to Wagner after making an official visit last week.

"I really liked the small-school feel and the small classes," Brenner said. "The coaches were very welcoming. I'm going to be in business after college, and at Wagner an internship in New York City is required. That's where job opportunities are second to none."

Brenner started at offensive guard for three years for the Mustangs, and also started at outside linebacker as a junior and at defensive end as a senior.

"He was a great leader for us, with a great work ethic," Mainland coach Bob Coffey said of Brenner. "He would do anything for the team. We asked him to go to two ways for us, so he never got a rest. That didn't help his stats but it helped us tremendously.

"We moved him from outside linebacker to defensive end. He'd do anything we asked to help us, and that says a lot about his character."

Mainland was 4-6 this past fall. Brenner was chosen an honorable mention Press All-Star.

"It was tough when I was a sophomore because I was 160 pounds playing offensive guard," said Brenner. "I was going up against bigger guys. By the time I was a senior I was 205. I was the same as some guys (who lined up against him), but smaller than others. It was grueling and tough physically but I enjoyed (playing guard). We ran the Wing-T and I liked getting to pull and being mobile."

Brenner also considered Gettysburg College, a Division III school.

"I enjoy defense more," said Brenner. "You still have to know the plays on defense, but not as much. And you're delivering the hit more than receiving it."

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