CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - Everybody knew it.
Ocean City definitely knew it. Middle Township knew it, too. Even the fans watching the game had a pretty good idea where the ball was going.
Wide receiver Mike Coccodrilli was going to be quarterback Logan McGuigan's first option with the game hanging in the balance.
Coccodrilli's seventh catch of the game went for 24 yards and a touchdown with time winding down in the fourth quarter as Ocean City High School came from behind to beat Middle Township 14-13 on Saturday in a Cape-Atlantic League interdivision football game.
"Everybody knows he's our main guy," McGuigan said. "He's just too sneaky for everyone. I've got a great connection with him. They can't stop him. He's too good."
The Red Raiders (1-3) started their game-winning drive from their own 39-yard line with less than five minutes left in the game, trailing 13-7.
The drive started with a 21-yard pass to Coccodrilli. After a 10-yard pass to Jake Terry and a 5-yard run by Ben Bethea, it was Coccodrilli's turn once again.
McGuigan hit Coccodrilli in stride on the left side of the field. Coccodrilli picked up a block and beat the safety to the sideline as he scampered in for the game-winner.
"Every time I throw up the ball, even if it's a bad ball on my part, I know 'Cocco' is coming down with it," McGuigan said.
Coccodrilli finished with seven catches for 138 yards and both of the Red Raiders' touchdowns.
"It's good playcalling by the coaches and it's running good routes and just doing my job, whatever I can do," Coccodrilli said. "I just sneak in there and get open. …It's a lot of fun playing with (McGuigan) at quarterback. He has confidence in me and I have confidence in him. He showed a lot of good leadership to come back and lead this team to our first win."
There was a sense of urgency on both sides of the field. The two schools - which used to be Thanksgiving rivals but haven't played since 1995 - both came into Saturday's game winless for the season.
"This was a big win," McGuigan said. "This was our season right here. We needed this win. If we were 0-4, we wouldn't have had much confidence going into any other games. We needed this win."
The Red Raiders trailed 13-0 late in the first half, but a Jason Lewis interception set up a 12-play, 77-yard drive that was capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Coccodrilli with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
Middle Township (0-4) was outscored 125-7 in the team's first three games. But the Panthers came out strong to take an early lead, digging deep into the team's playbook.
On the third play of the game, Brian Smith took a handoff on an end around, stepped back and threw a perfect pass to Terrance Toney for a 46-yard touchdown.
After Ocean City fumbled the ball back to Middle, it was Smith again, this time on a 74-yard touchdown run on the second play of the drive.
Smith finished with 12 carries for 102 yards.
The play of Smith and sophomore middle linebacker/fullback Zack Vogelei were the bright spots for Middle.
Vogelei ran for 47 yards on nine carries and led the defense with 11 tackles.
"We played as a team," Vogelei said. "We played four quarters of football. The offense played well and the defense played hard. There's not much more you could ask for. This is the best we've played all season.
"We have to keep our heads up and keep on working. We can't let one game bring us down. I know we're 0-4 and it's tough but you've got to keep playing."
Middle hosts Pleasantville on Saturday. Ocean City will go for back-to-back wins as it plays at Millville on Friday at 7 p.m.
Contact John O'Kane:
Ocean City 0 7 0 7 – 14
Middle Township 13 0 0 0 – 13
MT-Toney 46 pass by Smith (kick failed)
MT-Smith 76 run (Vogelei kick)
OC-Coccodrilli 17 pass by McGuigan (McGuigan kick)
OC-Coccodrilli 24 pass by McGuigan (McGuigan kick)
Rushing 163 177
Passing 171 54
First downs 16 9
Penalties 6-50 6-32
Turnovers 3 1
Rushing-Bethea 11-68, Schultheis 11-46, Turner 3-18, Snow 7-16, Nugent 1-4, Lewis 1-4, McGuigan 2-4, Murphy 1-3 OC; Smith 12-102, Vogelei 9-47, Manning 7-27, Keith 6-2, Case 1-(-1) MT.
Passing-McGuigan 10-14-171-1 OC; Smith 1-1-46-0, Keith 1-4-8 MT.
Receiving-Coccodrilli 7-138, Murphy 1-15, Terry 1-10, Impagliazzo 1-8 OC; Toney 1-46, Smith 1-8 MT.
Records-Ocean City 1-3; Middle 0-4.