Another dominating season for Delsea football

by Marc Narducci | Dec 4, 2023
Another dominating season for Delsea football
Delsea is annually among the top football programs in South Jersey and this year was no exception. One could say the Crusaders were the second-best team in South Jersey, behind Mainland, which went 14-0 and won the Group 4 state championship.

Delsea was South Jersey’s other state champ, claiming the Group 3 crown to finish 12-1.

This is only the second year of NJSIAA state championships for public school and Delsea has been to the title game in both years.

After losing to Old Tappan, 24-14 in the first-ever state Group 3 championship last year, Delsea made amends in a big way by beating West Essex, 28-3 in this year’s state final.

That meant that the Crusaders ended the season on an 11-game win streak after suffering a 28-13 loss to eventual Central Jersey Group 4 champion Winslow Township.

Delsea’s Sal Marchese Jr. is among the top coaches in South Jersey history. 

Each year the Crusaders rely on one of the state’s strongest rushing attacks and a stingy defense. 

Sure, the Crusaders will throw the ball sometimes, but it is the run that is the staple of the program, with Marchese’s modern version of the Wing-T attack.

The Crusaders were dominating during this year’s postseason. In winning five games, Delsea outscored its opponents, 186-35.

The closest playoff win was a 28-12 victory over Camden in the state Group 3 semifinal. 

In the 28-3 state final over West Essex, the running attack was up to its usual high standards. The Crusaders rushed for 350 yards and four touchdowns in 45 carries, averaging a hefty 7.7 yards per carry (according to NJ.com stats).

Quarterback Zach Maxwell attempted just three passes, but an aerial attack wasn’t needed with the way the ground game was jelling. 

Dan Russo rushed for 131 yards and two scores while Wayne Adair rushed for 132 yards and a TD and Maxwell rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown. 

Delsea’s defense held West Essex to 84 yards of total offense, including just 22 yards on the ground. Junior LB Alex Grippo led the Crusaders with 11 tackles.

For the season Delsea outscored teams 503-127.

This was a team with two, 1,000-yard rushers. Russo accounted for 1,673 yards (7.1 avg.) and 26 touchdowns. Adair rushed for 1,004 yards (11.4 avg.) and 17 touchdowns. 

What makes Delsea’s success even more impressive is that opposing teams know what is coming, yet have such a difficult time stopping the running game.

One of the reasons for Marchese’s success over the years is his ability to develop a cohesive offensive line. Delsea isn’t always the biggest team, but over the years, few execute at such a high level. 

Since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974, Delsea has won 16 sectional titles and now in Year 2 of the state playoffs for public schools, the Crusaders have earned a state crown.

There have been so many great Delsea teams, that it’s difficult to compare this year’s with others, but one thing is undeniable – no other team in school history will get the chance to say that they were the first to win a state football title.

Photo courtesy of Delsea football

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Author: Marc Narducci

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