By MARK TRIBLE

South Jersey Glory Days Senior Football Writer

GLASSBORO — Somehow, some way, Delsea Regional’s unbeaten season on the gridiron persevered here at Rowan University’s Coach Richard Wackar Stadium on Friday.

Wayne Adair took a handoff 20 yards for a touchdown with 52 seconds on the clock. The run proved the difference and nearly allowed an exhale for the Crusaders, ranked No. 1 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show/Glory Days Best 11.

“I never took a deep breath the entire game,” Adair scoffed at the suggestion of relief. “Today, our team showed some heart. I have faith in us.”

Thanks to the 21-sweep call that saw Adair follow Ashton Blose and Danny DiGiovacchino’s big blocks for a route to the end zone, the final score read 33-27 in favor of Delsea (8-0) over No. 3 St. Joseph (5-2).

Zach Maxwell’s interception along the left sideline presented an opportunity to let out bated breath.

Nothing else could provide the chance in the Atlantic Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat Game of the Week.

Not after a penalty- and turnover-plagued night saw the Wildcats scratch and claw their way to a 14-0 lead. Then, after they’d given it up at 15-15, the parochial squad completed a 38-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half to go up 21-15.

That lead got pushed out to 24-15 early in the third quarter. Delsea eventually wore them down, it seemed, with 12 unanswered points.

But, Trevin DelGozzo knocked in a 36-yard kick to tie it at 27-27 with 2 minutes, 18 seconds to play. Even that felt predestined for the never-say-die St. Joe club. His 41-yard attempt got blocked before an offsides call moved it forward.

The Crusaders did what the last five foes of the Wildcats couldn’t.

They put them away.

That had been an issue for those on the other side of St. Joe.

Prior to Friday, coach Paul Sacco’s crew had taken the last handful by a total of 23 points.

“You’re playing a team like this and we’ve been on the good end the last five weeks and you hope it continues,” said Sacco, in his 41st and final year as head coach at the Hammonton school said. “We made some mistakes and they were better up front on both sides of the ball than we were.

“I’m proud of my kids. I don’t know if anyone thought we could withstand everything they threw at us, but we did.”

For all the wins and championships and All-South Jersey honorees between them, Sacco and Delsea boss Sal Marchese had never squared off prior to Friday.

The matchup delivered a classic. It resulted in a West Jersey Football League Independence Division crown.

“That’s the best high school game I think I’ve ever seen,” a fan said in the parking lot afterward.

An affair that had a little of everything. Though ugly and sloppy, it added more legitimacy to the Crusaders’ prowess. They’d dominated in two emotional affairs the last pair of games.

They rolled Cedar Creek, the foe that sent them home in the South Jersey Group 3 final last year, 35-6.

They then took down Hammonton, an old and storied rival that shares much of the same likeness, 28-3.

Even flat emotionally and mistake prone, they found the plays they needed to move on and remain unscathed. Adair and Jared Schoppe had a lot to do with that. Per NJ.com’s Kevin Minnick, Schoppe went for 128 yards on 20 totes with three touchdowns. Adair notched a pair of scores to go with 171 yards on 14 carries.

Though they haven’t lost, this bunch knows the zero at the end of the record means zilch now.

The Group 3 playoffs begin next week.

“You usually learn from losses,” Marchese said. “You don’t learn from wins. But there’s a lot to learn from this game.”

“… The one thing you take out of it is these kids are nails tough. They’re workers and they’re committed. I’m never going to question their effort or toughness. That’s what pulled through in the game.”

Those traits are what Delsea will need to finish the crusade many believe they can.

An undefeated championship season.

Mark Trible is a senior high school football writer for South Jersey Glory Days. You can follow him on Twitter @MTrible. Also, catch his high school football show (The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show) every Wednesday at 7 p.m. at facebook.com/sjglorydays, and his “Hat’s Off” Podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m.