It was a nightmare of a game.
The lone blemish on its record is a dismal 34-0 defeat at the hands of Hammonton.
But looking back on that late-October night, it may have provided the Delsea High School football team with its biggest lesson of the season.
“That loss taught us more than any win,” said senior quarterback Quinn Collins. “We aren’t all that and people aren’t going to roll over because we have Delsea written across our chests. We have to work for it and that’s what it proved.”
The Crusaders were 6-0 at the time, the No. 1 team in the Courier-Post Mean 15, but nothing went right for the hosts. They were manhandled unlike any other game in quite a while and it shook those in the red and white.
“I would say … yeah,” Collins said.
It proved to be a wake-up call for a Delsea squad that, at the time, probably didn’t think it needed one.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Hammonton, because that was a great football team, but I do think there was a lack of focus that week,” Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. said. “We thought we were a lot better than we were. We felt it would just come easier than it should.
“I didn’t like our preparation leading up to that week and the way we got it, not only the loss but the way we lost … We were thoroughly dominated in that game and the way we lost woke everyone up. The players and coaches. There was just a lack of focus more than anything.
“The kids were woken up. Our practice habits got a lot better and our preparation got a lot better. The main thing was that there wasn’t any more complacency at all – players, coaches. We had to come to work every day and that’s basically what we did.”
Since the loss, Delsea (10-1) has won four straight and is eyeing its fourth consecutive South Jersey Group 3 title. The Crusaders will play Camden on Saturday at Rowan University in a rematch of their regular-season game.
Delsea pulled out a 25-19 home victory in the second week of the season.
“We’ve all been preparing for the past four years for this one game,” Collins said. “It means a lot to be there for a fourth time.
“For our guys, it would mean everything in the world to have another plaque hanging on the wall and a special trophy in the trophy case to stand out with some of the other stuff that’s in there. This means a lot.”
The last public-school team to win four straight South Jersey titles was Paulsboro. The Red Raiders won six in a row from 1992-1997.
“It’s a big deal for the team; for the school and the community,” Marchese said. “At Delsea, we say to take it one season at a time, one game at a time. But this game means a lot to them considering what’s at stake.”
Collins walked off the field disappointed a few weeks ago. It was a lesson learned that proved beneficial for a team now looking to fulfill its destiny.
“We realized 12-0 was no longer possible. So, 11-1 would be a lot better than 10-2,” Collins said. “We could still win the championship. We didn’t have that perfect season, but we could get there in the end.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com
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