Kevin Smith made a seamless transition to becoming the head coach of the Ocean City High School football team. Not surprising considering he was a Red Raiders assistant for 15 years.
"So far the transition has been great," said Smith, who was hired in May after former coach Mark Impagliazzio resigned. "Having been there awhile I know all the kids. I've been able to retain a lot of the staff, so we didn't have much of a transition there either."
Smith takes over a young team that finished 3-7 last season. Smith said he's made some changes in how Ocean City will approach the game.
"We feel because of the continuity of it all it hasn't been hard to make those changes," he said.
The Red Raiders will emphasize the running game on offense. Junior running back Nick Zauck will probably be the primary ball carrier.
"The best thing you can do with young kids is run the ball and try to minimize what you're asking the younger kids to do," Smith said.
On defense, Ocean City will try to take advantage of its talented linebackers.
The Red Raiders will feature Bob DeLuce at linebacker. DeLuce made 93 tackles as a sophomore but played in just five games last year because of a knee injury.
"We're going to play a front that hopefully is going to give them an opportunity to not have a whole lot of blockers in their face," Smith said. "They can go sideline to sideline and make plays."
The Red Raiders also feature Ben Bethea at defensive end, who missed half of his season after transferring from Egg Harbor Township. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Bethea can bench press 300 pounds and broke 11 seconds in the 100-meter dash for the Red Raiders' track and field team last spring.
On offense, the Red Raiders will try to take advantage of the big-play capability of wide receiver Chris Turner, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last season.
Sophomore Chris Gabor will start at quarterback.
"He's the kind of kid you just have to tell him and show him one time and he picks it up," Smith said.
The Red Raiders lost to CAL National rivals Oakcrest, Holy Spirit, Hammonton and Mainland Regional last year.
"We have to get more competitive with them," Smith said. "The weight room is the biggest disparity. We don't feel like our kids are as physically strong as them. We need to be more competitive with them."
Contact Michael McGarry:
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 16
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2008
PLAYOFF RECORD: 13-12
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League National/South Jersey Group III
COACH: Kevin Smith (first season)
2010 RECORD: 3-7
2011 PREDICTION: Rebuilding: The Red Raiders are young but have some talent in linebacker Bob DeLuce and wide receiver Chris Turner.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 23 vs. Mainland Regional - Smith's first home game as head coach comes against the Red Raiders biggest rival.