A change of scenery has made all the difference in the world for Isaiah Spencer.
The talented running back took his services to Delsea Regional High School this year after two productive seasons in the Vineland backfield. It’s safe to say Spencer has found his footing after a brief adjustment period.
The junior enters Saturday’s Group III South title game against third-seeded Barnegat (10-1) as Delsea’s leading rusher with 1,244 yards and 20 touchdowns. Spencer is averaging a remarkable 12 yards per carry. In his last five games, Spencer has rushed for 805 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“I just got real comfortable with everything and, honestly, the repetition helped,” Spencer said. “The more reps we did, the more I was able to do better and better once we got into a game situation. That, and the (offensive) line has helped a lot too.”
Delsea’s offensive line has plenty of skill behind it to clear the way for. The team has another 1,000-yard back in Rob Hooks and quarterback Rob Rolle also has done damage with his feet, racking up 615 yards and 11 scores.
The Crusaders (9-2) knew what they had in Rolle and Hooks, a pair of returning veterans who made their mark in the ground game last year. The jury was out on the new guy, however, but it didn’t take long for Spencer to win his teammates over.
“All we have to do is open up big holes for him and he’s gone,” Delsea senior guard Chris Caudill said. “It’s easy. All we have to do is move them for a couple seconds and next thing you know he’s halfway down the field going in for a touchdown.”
Success is not uncommon for Spencer.
As a sophomore, Spencer ran for 852 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns for the Fighting Clan. The 5-foot-10, 182-pound back also was used in the return game by Vineland. But the Clan won just seven games in his two years with the team — including a 2-8 mark last season — and Spencer knew things would change once he suited up for Delsea.
“Being around people that constantly give 100 percent, it makes me want to give 110 percent,” Spencer said. “If I wasn’t playing at 110 percent, there’s no way I’d be where I’m at right now.”
It was tough for Spencer to play at 100 percent to start the year.
“A lot of people don’t know, but he played the first four games with a broken foot,” Delsea coach Sal Marchese said of Spencer. “He played through it and is completely healthy now, and it shows.”
Marchese, like Spencer’s teammates, has seen his dynamic back grow. Now in his 21st year leading the program, Marchese wasn’t deterred by how Spencer handled the feeling-out process at a new school.
“I think he’s more comfortable with the coaching staff, I think he’s more comfortable with the kids, with the school in general,” Marchese said. “I think the big thing is our offense, you know, playing tailback in our offense is very complicated with all the different formations, a lot of different motions, and plays, and blocking, and routes running the ball.
“I think he’s just become more comfortable with the entire situation and the entire football program. And because he’s more comfortable, he’s more confident, and when a kid with that much ability becomes confident you see what the results are. He’s a very talented kid and has had an unbelievable last half of the season.”
Spencer is hoping to keep his hot streak intact one last time when he helps lead fourth-seeded Delsea into Saturday’s 4 p.m. start against Barnegat at Rowan University. While the Crusaders are seeking their 11th state title and second in a row, Spencer is after his first taste of glory.
“It will feel good to go from, one year, 2-8, to the next year, a state championship,” Spencer said. “It would be crazy. I don’t even know how I would feel. It’s just exciting.”