By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Senior Football Writer
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — Consider this another chapter in the anthology of run-of-the-mill Delsea High late-season wins on the gridiron.
The Crusaders made it look easy — early and often — here on Friday night at John Oberg Stadium with a 41-6 blowout of Hammonton.
It started with two touchdowns on short fields after Blue Devils turnovers. Once Delsea, ranked No. 5 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11, took that 14-0 lead, only the final totals were left in doubt.
For coach Sal Marchese’s club, all other mathematics in the equation were simple. Stop Hammonton’s star back Kenny Smith and make hay with a ruthlessly efficient run game.
On the night, the Crusaders (6-1) ran for 331 yards on 42 carries, good for more than seven yards per tote.
They held Smith to less than 50 on the ground.
“We’ve been practicing well overall the past few weeks,” Marchese said. “We knew tonight, they go as Kenny Smith goes.
“We put a lot of emphasis on getting all kinds of hats to the ball, tackling and containing him. We felt if we could do that, we could control their offense.”
Delsea’s defense certainly looked the part. The unit forced and recovered a fumble on the second snap of the game. Three plays later, Wayne Adair took a toss 26 yards for six.
The Blue Devils (4-4) fared no better on their second drive. Dom Teti intercepted a third-down pass and returned it to the 6-yard line. Another toss to Adair followed, another score.
He finished with three touchdowns on the night.
“We started off a little rough this year, but I think we’re starting to pick it up,” Adair said. “I think we’re getting back to what we used to be.
“(Coach) Marchese has been here forever. He knows how to do it. Every week he tells us we have to practice better and get better at everything. We turned it on and it’s starting to show. We’re starting to look like a real team.”
Last year, the Crusaders fell in the Group 3 state championship. Star linebacker and fullback Jared Schoppe graduated. Dan Russo, a transfer from Vineland, has begun to show his ability to fill Schoppe’s shoes.
He’s the thunder. Adair, the lightning.
“Coming into Delsea, I knew I had to be that kind of guy,” Russo said of his rugged, workmanlike approach. “Coach Marchese has helped mold me into what I am now.”
Russo didn’t score on Friday but set up plenty for the red-and-white. He carried 17 times for 142 yards.
Zach Maxwell plunged in on two short-yardage sneaks from the quarterback position. Xavier Wyatt tacked on a 57-yard jaunt for points in the final minutes.
“Russo is a pleasant surprise, coming into our culture,” Marchese said. “Our culture is pretty tough, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to grind in the weight room.
“He’s a competitive kid. He does everything the right way.”
With Adair and Russo in tandem, the ground-and-pound Crusaders are formidable on chilly nights like these and much colder ones as the postseason wears on.
They have plenty of size up front. Their defense rises to the task. And of course, they become more in sync as biggest games roll around.
“It’s a matter of keep coaching the kids, keep coaching them,” Marchese said. “In the beginning of the year, we’re not great players.
“You’ve got to keep coaching them and getting them to buy into every day. Every day is going to get you better if you focus on getting better. Offensively, everyone says Delsea is simple. We’re anything but simple. We run a zillion different plays, blocking schemes and I think we just bum rush them with everything, right off the bat … We just throw everything at them and by the middle of the year, we’ve seen everything we’re going to see and kids are getting better by repetition.”
The method continues to work for the veteran coach and his stellar program, evidenced again here Friday from the first series on.
Mark Trible is a special 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.