By TIM KELLYThe Ocean City High School football team will celebrate the end of its winter weight training season with its sixth annual Weight Test fundraiser to benefit the football program.Players solicit sponsors and then compete against each other – and the record books – in the dead lift and bench press.The public is invited to attend the free event, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in the high school weight room.“It’s a really fun event,” Head Coach Kevin Smith said in an e-mail. “It’s a great opportunity for our football family and the public to get together during the off-season.”The high school weight room was packed last year with players, parents, friends and family taking part. The event proved to be a precursor to an historic season for the Red Raiders.“It’s always a well-attended event, and last year’s was packed nearly to capacity,” Smith said. “Proceeds benefit the football program and are used to upgrade the school’s training equipment. In addition to the donations raised through generous supporters, refreshments and OCHS football gear will be sold.”“Our players have been working really hard all off-season and they are anxious to show (parents and fans) their progress,” Smith added.Virtually all members of the squad, other than those participating in a winter sport, will be taking part.The roster is divided into five teams of lifters, keeping the competitive juices flowing. It’s fast-paced, a bit raucous, and loud.(Highlights of the 2019 Weight Test courtesy of videographer Bill Shallcross)Last year, seniors Chris Armstrong and Mike Williscroft each deadlifted 575 pounds to tie for the school record.The two-way linemen then went on to make outstanding contributions to the Raiders 9-3 season.Ocean City qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs for the third straight year. The Red Raiders defeated archrival Mainland to advance and then knocked off Long Branch to earn a spot in the South Jersey Group IV championship before finally falling to Shawnee.Ocean City’s record was its best in 20 years, and signaled the latest rise in the program’s status as one of the region’s elite.With the bulk of the team returning in 2020, players and fans have high hopes that the Red Raiders will again contend for the West Jersey Football League Independence title, most observers agree.Strength training and off-season conditioning have become a huge element of football at every level of the game. Technique coaching and weight training of high school players are equally important to blocking and tackling in a highly competitive sport.The Red Raiders are a team often smaller than their opponents, but rarely less fit. Several games decided late could be traced back to a large degree to the weight room.Fittingly, the Weight Test fundraiser takes the team’s lifting program from behind the scenes to center stage and recognizes its importance to the squad’s overall success.Ocean City quarterback Joe Repetti uncorks a pass against Long Branch in last year’s state playoffs.The players lift after school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The weight room is also available for sessions before school beginning at 6:15 a.m. three days a week.There’s also a weight training clinic for eighth graders who have aspirations to play for the OCHS varsity in the future.The event has become a new tradition for the program, and Smith hopes it will keep getting bigger.“If you’re looking for something to do, please join us,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun night.” Ocean City Head Coach Kevin Smith urges on members of the football squad during the 2019 Weight Test fundraiser.