LOWER TOWNSHIP - An old high school football rivalry resumed Saturday as Lower Cape May Regional hosted Wildwood.
The two schools, located approximately 20 minutes away from each other in Cape May County, were regular opponents nearly 10 years ago as members of the Cape-Atlantic League's National Conference.
Since 2001, Lower (3-0) has moved to the American Conference and then back to the National before moving to the newly formed United Division, while Wildwood (0-4) went to the Tri-County Conference and is now in its first year of competition in a division of the West Jersey Football League.
Though the two teams are no longer on each other's schedules every year, the rivalry was still as heated as ever, with the Caper Tigers earning a 53-14 win over the Warriors. Players were smack-talking and hitting (both before and after the whistle) as if it was an annual Thanksgiving Day game.
"Without a doubt, it's still a rivalry," Lower coach Mike Wilson said. "That's the way it is and that's the way it should be. We should have this rivalry with us, Middle (Township) and Wildwood."
Junior quarterback Mike Mulligan tossed four touchdown passes to lead the Caper Tigers to their third straight victory this year. The first two wins were won with the ground game, so it came as somewhat of a surprise to see Lower come out firing the ball. Mulligan threw for 217 yards, including long touchdowns of 40 and 70 yards to junior wide receiver Vance Matthews.
Jordan Hazel and Tyler Sole were the recipients of Mulligan's other passing scores.
Senior Chris Alicea is listed on the Caper Tigers' roster as a wide receiver but ended up finding the end zone twice with rushing scores from 22 and 16 yards.
"My blockers made good decisions and everyone did their jobs," Alicea said. "Fortunately, I was the one carrying the ball."
Lower Cape May jumped out to an early 20-0 lead in the first quarter, turning two Wildwood fumbles into touchdowns. The Warriors settled down in the second quarter and outscored Lower 14-12 in the third on touchdown runs from running back Wesley Hill and quarterback Zak Barrett.
But the Warriors, however were banged up late in the game, losing five starters to injury as Lower scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't give up, but it's hard playing some of the younger guys who don't know what to do," Barrett said. "We knew a lot of these guys so we were really pumped, but we didn't plan on losing five of our starters, so it was hard to adjust."
Lower's 3-0 start is the program's best since it opened the 2006 season at 4-1. The Caper Tigers were just 1-29 in the past three years.
"There's just a different presence in the school and in the community," Wilson said. "(The players) are as high as a kite in the locker room. Wins change everything."
Lower hosts Bridgeton (2-2) on Friday. Wildwood will get another chance to notch its first win when it travels to Pennsville (4-0) on Friday.
Contact Patrick Carragher:
Wildwood 0 0 14 0 - 14
Lower Cape May Regional 20 0 12 21 - 53
LCM-Alicea 22 run (Mulligan kick)
LCM-Hazel 4 pass from Mulligan (Mulligan kick)
LCM-Matthews 40 pass from Mulligan (kick failed)
LCM-Alicea 16 run (kick blocked)
W-Hill 2 run (run failed)
LCM-Sole 19 pass from Mulligan (kick failed)
W-Barrett 4 run (Curtis Gift pass from Barrett)
LCM-Matthews 70 pass from Mulligan (Matthews pass from Mulligan)
LCM-Lovelace 2 pass from Shelton (Mulligan kick)
LCM-Hicks 44 run (kick failed)
Rushing-Moody 13-31, Hill 11-35, Barrett 5-11, Osario 2-4, Gift 2-2, Tomlinson 1-3, Smith 1-1, Christian 1-1 W; Hall 5-46, Sole 5-31, Alicea 3-38 2-TD, Hicks 2-45, Marshall 2-15, Shelton 1-2 L.
Receiving-Gift 4-79, Hill 2-38, Smith 2-16, Torres 1-6 W; Alicea 5-46, 3-139, Hazel 3-23 TD, Sole 1-9 TD, Lovelace 1-2 L.
Passing-Barrett 9-20-139-0-0 W; Mulligan 12-17-217-4-0, Shelton 1-2-2-1-0.
Records-Lower 3-0; Wildwood 0-4.