The Delsea High School football team was sporting an 11-0 record heading into a high stakes playoff game against a high-powered Camden High School (10-1) on November 18.
In 2021, the Crusaders were undefeated and made it to this point, the state semifinals. Unfortunately, Delsea dropped a 30-13 decision to Cedar Creek.
The Crusaders are here again. Does this group carry a sense of unfinished business?
Longtime head coach Sal Marchese Jr. didn’t see it that way. He talked about the standards his program has set over the years.
With this group, led by two-way lineman Ashton Blose, LB/OL Danny DiGiovacchino, junior RB/DB Wayne Adair, FB/LB Jared Schoppe, QB/DB Zach Maxwell, a junior, RB/DE Luke Maxwell and DB/RB Dom Teti, a junior, just to name a few, are holding up a standard that has been in place for a long time.
“At Delsea, if you don’t win at least a sectional championship, it’s kind of like a failure,” Marchese said the Monday after the Crusaders dispatched Hopewell Valley Central 44-7 on November 12 in the third round of the NJSIAA playoffs, winning their Section of South Jersey Group 3. “Last year we were 11-1, but it didn’t meet our standards. We didn’t attain our goal. So coming in this year, our first goal was to win our division, which is a loaded division.
“It’s the best division we’ve played in years. We accomplished that. And our second goal was to win a sectional title which we just accomplished. Now the third goal is to win a state championship."
Marchese paused for a moment.
“It’s not unfinished business…it’s just the third goal, and the ultimate goal. “
Camden was the next opponent in the Group 3 state semifinals, scheduled for November 18.
If Delsea survives that game, the Crusaders will advance to the Group 3 state title game against the winner of the NV-Old Tappan vs. West Morris Central on December 3.
“They’re a great team,” Marchese said of Camden. “They’re talented. They have all kinds of Division one kids. They play great defense, they’re dangerous on special teams. Offensively, they have great skill kids all over the place. We’re definitely going to have to play our A game to have a chance to win the football game.”
Delsea has won its share of titles over the years. One memorable victory came in 2017 when his Delsea team knocked off defending State Champions Timber Creek, handing All State quarterback Devon Leary and the Chargers their first loss of the season in the state semifinals.
The Crusaders went on to win the State Championship over Woodrow Wilson (now called Eastside High School) 29-28.
Marchese’s team started that season 1-3; then went on to run the table.
This year Leary- now a star at North Carolina State - was named the preseason MVP of the Atlantic Coast Conference. High School football at a high level for sure.
Marchese was asked how his teams have rallied after slow starts – which is not the case this season.
“I just think we have a great staff,” Marchese said. “We’ve been together for a long time. My assistant coaches just do a great job with the kids.
“We try to put a finger on why we start slow…I don’t think we start slow. I think this staff really coaches these kids up and they just get better and better every week. By the time the playoffs come, we’re always a pretty good football team. I think that’s the case more than starting slow.”
Those assistants include David Slates, Rob Briles, Ronn Flaim and Tom Maxwell.
Marchese talked about some of his key players.
“We have a good senior class, we don’t have a ton of them,” Marchese said. “The captains, which are Blose, Schoppe and Maxwell; they’ve done a great job as far as leading. They are also very good football players. The big thing is their leadership ability has been really good this year.”
Marchese singled out two juniors.
“Wayne Adair is one of the best football players in the area,” Marchese said. “and Maxwell, our quarterback is doing the job.”
Marchese still went back to his veterans.
“The big thing is the leadership of the seniors,” he said. It’s been really, really good this year. They bring it every day.”
So what has kept Marchese around all these years? It is certainly not the trophies and he’s not getting rich from this, at least money-wise.
“It’s the relationships I have with the kids,” Marchese said. “And the relationships I have with the staff. Most of us have been coaching together for 20-something years…we love the game and want to make men out of young kids, that’s the main thing” *
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com