With recruiting settled, Mainland’s Ja’Briel Mace ready for breakout season

by Marc Narducci | Sep 8, 2022
With recruiting settled, Mainland’s Ja’Briel Mace ready for breakout season
Mainland senior running back Ja’Briel Mace is looking forward to his senior season, not having the added pressure of worrying about recruiting.
That’s because the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Mace made a verbal commitment this summer to Villanova, where he will be joining one of the top Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs in the country.

“There is a relief to having made my decision,” Mace said. “Now I can focus on the season.”

Villanova had always been the front runner for his services. The decision was finalized after he made a campus visit.
“Once I stepped on Villanova’s campus, I kind of knew,” he said. “I kind of fell in love with the coaching staff and everything so it was Villanova for me.”

Mainland, which was 4-6 last year, appears vastly improved. The Mustangs opened with a 37-0 win over Egg Harbor Township, with Mace rushing for 90 yards and one touchdown.

Mainland then dropped a 21-20 decision to a quality Ocean City team. Mace scored on touchdown runs of 5 and 79 yards. Ocean City is among the top teams in South Group 4, which means Mainland should be as well. The two could meet again in the postseason. Last season Mace rushed for 937 yards (7.2 avg.) and 10 touchdowns.

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Despite his size, he is effective running inside, and between the tackles, but can obviously also burst to the outside, providing a home run threat.
In the opening win over EHT, he scored a 21-yard touchdown in which he burst to the outside, cut inside and broke tackles before darting for the end zone.

That was Mace at his best, showing both his power and speed in one electrifying run. “We always talk about the fact that you should never let one person tackle you,” he said. “Me personally, I am not letting one person tackle me.”
Even two tackling him could be a challenge to opposing defenses. Veteran Mainland coach Chuck Smith says coaching Mace is an absolute pleasure to be around.

“First of all, he is a great young man, just a tremendous kid,” Smith said. “And I love him as a person. Football is easy to like him because he is just a good player, but he is a great team leader, rallies the kids all the time.”

Smith said that Mace is a selfless player, who only cares about accumulating wins and not statistics. “If he gets 100 yards or zero touches, he doesn’t care as long as we get the W,” Smith said. “That is what is great about him.”

Of course, Mace has the ability to carry a team when needed. “There are times we have to get on his back and he rides us on his shoulders,” Smith said. “He is just a great player to have on the team.”

In addition to being a threat in South Group 4, Mainland I looked on as the favorite in the West Jersey Football League United Division. The other teams in the division are Egg Harbor Township, Oakcrest, Absegami, Atlantic City and Bridgeton.

Smith should play a major role, both with his running and leadership ability, two reasons why Mainland has high expectations this season.

Author: Marc Narducci


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