By Tim KellyThe Ocean City High School varsity football team will not see action again until next Friday night, Oct. 12, but that doesn’t mean there is time to relax. The JV and Freshman teams are busy keeping the program on the winning side, and the coaching staff is busy scouting the next opponents and studying film. Fans and boosters are gearing up for the next game. And then there is lifting, lifting and more lifting.Next Friday at 7 p.m., the Red Raiders travel to Runnemede, Camden County, to face Triton in a non-league game. The Mustangs are 2-2 overall, but unbeaten at 2-0 in the West Jersey Football League’s National Division as they prepare for tonight’s league game at Cherry Hill West. In the meantime, the Raiders are shaking off last Friday’s home non-league loss against the St. Augustine Hermits. If the players and coaches are smarting from the 38-6 setback, their first loss of the year, you’d never know it.Head Coach Kevin Smith said the Raiders (3-1) showed up to play in a game that felt a lot more competitive much of the time, despite a deceptive final score.“The result wasn’t what we wanted,” Smith said, “but we were very proud of the effort we put forth. Our kids played hard and went toe to toe with a state power for much of the game.”The fans showed up as well, packing Carey Stadium and going full-throat with their support. “The atmosphere was awesome,” said Smith. “It felt like a playoff game.” Speaking of the playoffs, if OC is headed to the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association’s big dance for the second straight year, not backing down against the Hermits will certainly help the cause. It might not have been the resume-building victory they sought, but mixing it up with a team that was both physically larger and brought a larger number of athletes to Carey Stadium can only prepare them for the challenge of contention for the league title and the postseason.Ocean City wide receiver Brandon Lashley hauls in a touchdown pass despite tight coverage from St. Augustine.The Raiders moved the ball up and down the field against St. Augustine, but could not finish most of the night, getting inside the Hermits’ 35 five different occasions but punching it into the end zone only once. Smith said quarterback Ian Aungst set a new school record for pass completions in a game with 23, and the offensive line gave him plenty of room to operate. The big guys up front yielded just one sack on 49 pass attempts. Smith said Billy Kroeger, who played a great game on both sides of the ball from his halfback and linebacker positions, was named player of the game. Brandon Lashley, who sustained minor injuries in a car accident the week of the game and was briefly shaken up after scoring OC’s only touchdown, also stood out.The biggest offensive challenge yet to overcome is the absence most of the season of a consistent running game. Aside from Aungst’s scrambles, OC running backs gained just 22 yards all night against a St. Augustine team that was not lighting it up defensively. The run game was also largely absent in the win over Bridgeton in the home opener and in a hard-fought 9-0 triumph at Absegami. With the week off from varsity competition, Smith and staff are working hard to correct this and to find more balance in the Raider attack.In the interim, Ocean City remains alone atop the WJFL Independence Division standings at 3-0. But nipping at the Red Raiders’ heels are future opponents Oakcrest, winner of a 3-0 defensive struggle against Middle Township on Friday, and archrival Mainland, which lost 24-17 to Clearview.Both Oakcrest (3-1 overall) and Mainland (3-2) are 2-0 in the Independence Division. The Falcons and Mustangs square off against each other next Friday.The Red Raiders stand for the National Anthem before the start of the St. Augustine game. Ocean City’s captains prepare to take the field during last week’s showdown with St. Augustine Prep.