Wildwood gathers for summer practice

Wildwood High School defensive coordinator Casey Dillon (with football) talks to the Warriors after their first preseason practice Monday.

Casey Dillon won a lot of games in high school.

He was a senior wide receiver and defensive back at Mainland Regional High School in fall 2008. The Mustangs went 12-0 that season en route to winning the South Jersey Group IV championship.

His goals are different now. As defensive coordinator at Wildwood under head coach Ken Loomis, he wants to help the Warriors win a game.

Just one game.

It hasn’t happened for Wildwood in five years, since a 22-6 victory over Pleasantville in a state consolation game. The Warriors enter this season with a 36-game losing streak.

Last season was particularly painful. Not only did they go 0-9, they weren’t competitive. They had only three touchdowns the entire season and were outscored 366-22.

“Last year was tough,” said Dillon, who also played for Rowan University. “We were able to stay close in some games for a while, but we’d eventually get worn down.”

Wildwood wasn’t always this bad.

Led by running back Wes Hills, who is in the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp as a rookie free agent, the Warriors went 6-4 in 2012 under coach Rich Hans and made the South Jersey Group I playoffs.

The program also has produced some big-time talent. Randy Beverly, who starred

in the 1960s, had two interceptions for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts. Bill Osborn, who played football, basketball and baseball at both Wildwood High and the University of Pittsburgh, had a cup of Gatorade with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1989 and stints in the Arena Football League (Pittsburgh Gladiators) and World League of American Football (Barcelona Dragons).

A lack of depth and experience have a lot to do with the recent struggles.

In most seasons, the Warriors have been lucky to have 20 players for some games, and that includes freshmen. Talent at the skill positions doesn’t matter if you’ve got 14-year-old, 165-pound offensive linemen blocking 18-year-old, 240-pound defensive ends.

The Warriors have a strong work ethic, but it’s geared toward actual work. The pizza parlors, ice cream stands and arcades on the Wildwood Boardwalk are routinely staffed by Wildwood’s football team.

As a result, attendance is sparse at summer workouts.

Wildwood staged its first preseason practice Monday morning. Thirteen players were there, but only nine wore shoulder pads and helmets.

After the two-hour session ended at 8 a.m., Shyhem Copeland went home to shower and grab something to eat before going to work.

Actually, the senior center/noseguard has two jobs. He collects shopping carts in the parking lot at WalMart in Rio Grande from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., then heads to the Boardwalk for a 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift making ice cream at Ice Hot Teppanyaki restaurant.

“I want to be able to buy my own stuff without having to ask my family for money,” Copeland said. “I’ll be getting my driver’s license in October, so I’m saving up for a car.”

Junior running back/defensive back Greg Mitchell, who is arguably the team’s best player, works as a bus boy at Duffer’s Restaurant and Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and at Hot Spot Pizzeria.

At least they still show up for practice. Other players won’t be buckling a chinstrap for the first time until school starts.

“We’re hoping to have between 25 and 30 players at that point,” Dillon said.

Dillon, Loomis and the rest of the staff are entering their fourth season together. Wildwood is 0-28 under their charge.

There was talk of possibly dropping down to the junior-varsity level in hopes of rebuilding the team. Pitman, also a member of the West Jersey Football League’s Classic Division, did so for the 2017 season after going 1-8 in 2016 — its only win was against Wildwood — with only about 20 players. The Panthers returned to varsity last season and beat Wildwood 33-0.

Unless they end their losing streak this season, that switch to a junior varsity program probably will happen in 2020.

But for now, all their attention, all their focus, is on getting a win.

Just one win.

David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.

Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com Twitter @PressACWeinberg

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Contact: 609-272-7201 DWeinberg@pressofac.com

Twitter @PressACWeinberg

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