OCEAN CITY - Brian Winchester did everything for the Vineland High School football team Friday night except fetch the water during timeouts.
The senior running back/safety rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns and also snared two interceptions in the Fighting Clan's 12-0 victory over host Ocean City in the opening game for both Cape-Atlantic League teams.
"That's the Brian Winchester that everybody wants to see," Vineland first-year coach Josh Hedgeman said. "And he hasn't even come close to reaching what he's capable of achieving."
Winchester, 5-feet-9 and 172 pounds, displayed great potential two years ago, when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore. Injuries and a one-game suspension for fighting during a game hampered his progress last season.
He started off his senior season with a terrific performance in which he showed his combination of speed and power.
Winchester scored Vineland's winning points on the first possession, bursting through a hole on the right side and racing up the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown. Two possessions later, he rumbled up the middle, broke a tackle, then ran over an Ocean City defender en route to a 43-yard TD.
"That's the way I like to run," Winchester said. "I like to mix it up a little bit and have fun."
The result enabled Hedgeman to win his debut and also provided a much-needed jolt of confidence to a team that stumbled to a 2-8 record last season.
The Fighting Clan had trouble with penalties, committing five infractions for 50 yards, and also hurt themselves with three turnovers. But they were able to come up with big plays on offense and defense in crucial situations.
"I'm excited for the kids, but honestly I expected to win," Hedgeman said. "We still have a lot of work to do. There were too many times when we had a chance to blow the game wide open and hurt ourselves with mistakes."
Vineland's defense made sure the mistakes weren't too costly.
Winchester and senior linebacker Steven Ribot led an effort that forced four turnovers and limited Ocean City to 144 total yards.
"This feels so good to get a win," said Ribot, who is a four-year starter. "This is not the same old Vineland team. In the past, we would have fallen apart in the second half, but those days are gone. This time we stayed strong and came through when it counted."
Mistakes were also Ocean City's problem.
The Red Raiders' offense moved the ball well at times behind senior running back Craig Schultheis (56 yards on 15 carries). Sophomore quarterback Matt Schuler also showed that he has potential as a passer when he hit senior wide receiver Michael Coccodrilli for back-to-back gains that combined for 54 yards in the third quarter.
But Ocean City also committed four turnovers.
"Nothing against Vineland, but we hurt ourselves," Ocean City coach Mark Impagliazzo said. "I told the kids that we have a young team that can't afford to make young mistakes, but that's what we did. I thought our defense played well enough to win, but we have to find a way to put points on the board."
Contact David Weinberg:
Vineland 12 0 0 0 - 12
Ocean City 0 0 0 0 - 0
V - Winchester 30 run. (Kick failed).
V - Winchester 43 run. (Kick failed)
First downs - V 8 ; OC 8
Rushing Yards - V 237; OC 68
Passing Yards - V 63; OC 76
Turnovers - V 2; OC 4
RUSHING - Winchester 19-143, Nelson 11-99, Coney 1-(-1), Chestnut 3-(-7) V; Schultheis 15-56, Murphy 5-16, Snow 2-5, Zauck 2-2, Franklin 1-(-2), Schuler 2-(-9) OC.
PASSING - Chestnut 3-10-63 V; Schuler 6-12-76 OC
RECEIVING - Thompson 1-51, Ribot 1-9, Arroyo 1-6 V; Coccodrilli 5-64, Impagliazzo 1-12 OC.
RECORDS: Vineland 1-0; Ocean City 0-1.