ocean city football

Head coach Kevin Smith oversees drills at an Ocean City High School  football practice on Tuesday Aug, 28, 2012.  (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City)

The Ocean City High School football team won’t have a complicated offensive game plan this season.

The Red Raiders want to run the ball behind an experienced offensive line.

The more physical approach should serve Ocean City well as it begins its first season in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference.

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“We need to dominate time of possession,” Ocean City coach Kevin Smith said. “We play some teams that might be able to out-athlete us, but our hope is we can keep the ball away from them.”

Three-year senior starters Josh Johnson (6-foot-1, 250-pounds) and Clint Pearson (6-3, 250) lead an offensive line that returns four starters.

“If I had to pick where I would want my experienced players it would definitely be up front,” Smith said. “If you can’t control the line of scrimmage, I don’t care what your backs are like. You’re going to have a long day.”

Smith said the linemen worked hard in the weight room in the offseason.

“At this point last year, they were tentative because they were still learning the scheme,” Smith said. “We’re leaps ahead of where we were last season.”

Ocean City won’t have as much experience as it thought it would have — at least for the start of the season.

Running back and safety Nick Zauck — another three-year starter — broke his collarbone in practice and will miss at least four games. Zauck rushed for 568 yards on 101 carries last season.

“He just had an awkward collision with another kid,” Smith said.

Junior Chris Gabor, who started at quarterback last year, shifts to wide receiver. The 6-1, 170-pound Gabor also excels at safety and will return punts.

“I just feel we can get more out of him overall by moving him (from quarterback),” Smith said. “He’s our defensive captain. He gets everybody into the right coverages. In a way, he’s still playing quarterback; he’s just doing it on the other side of the ball.”

Junior Joe Keyes takes over at quarterback. Leo Hamlett, the offensive coordinator at Holy Spirit the past few seasons, is now working with the Red Raiders.

Ocean City seems much more comfortable in Smith’s second season as head coach.

“Last year, everything was new and we were coming off a bad year,” he said.

“I think the guys feel we’ll be more competitive on the field this year. We’re trying to sell them hard that they can be a playoff team, and I think that’s something they’re buying into.”

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