By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
PISCATAWAY — The extra point sailed wide left with eight seconds left and Haddonfield’s football team streamed onto the field here at SHI Stadium in the South/Central Group 2 Regional Championship.
And while the margin — and that missed kick — held the thinnest of differentials at 28-27, all the finalization came after an incredible three-quarter effort from the Haddons (10-3).
Down 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-6 midway through the second, coach Frank DeLano’s club refused to go away against Pt. Pleasant Boro (10-2) of the Shore Conference.
“When you say, how do you come back?” Delano asked. “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
If that’s true, his team works pretty damn hard. Because they absolutely would not quit. Undeterred by that early deficit, Haddonfield had seven possessions in the game. One came with 19 ticks left in the first half. Another, a final kneel-down to win it.
All told, essentially four of the five true possessions went for scores.
Against a triple-option attack, DeLano knew maximization of those drives were huge. None bigger than the one that put Haddonfield on top for good.
It covered 53 yards over 6 minutes, 11 seconds.
It ended with quarterback Carson Wolff’s 14-yard scamper to make it 28-21.
“I’m more of a shifty, kind of more athletic guy,” Wolff said. “But I was trying to fight for a first down. I didn’t really know where the sticks were.
“I was like, ‘ah, let me lower my shoulder.’ And I just bounced off and went in. That’s the weight room for you, right there.”
Wolff finished an efficient 7-of-9 through the air with a touchdown pass and ran nine times for 67 yards and that winner of a score.
“We ask a lot of our (quarterbacks),” DeLano said. “We ask a ton. … For him to be poised on this stage, I think he was prepped and ready for the moment.
“It’s like studying for the test, you get nervous when you don’t know what the questions are going to be. When you’re prepped and you did your film work, you did your study, be cool as a cucumber right? And that’s the guy in that position that you need. Proud of him. Proud of his development.”
Running back Bobby Hahn scored the other two touchdowns and finished with 101 yards on 17 carries.
He and Wolff both pointed to a 28-14 road win over Delran after a 2-2 start with losses to Woodrow Wilson and Willingboro as a turning point.
Hahn also knew that the red-and-black normally find a way on the biggest stages.
“It’s like a religion at this point,” he said. “We all come in here every day and we put in the grind, put in the work.
“We come out here and we can make stuff like this happen. It’s beautiful. Everyone out here, even the fans, look at everyone, the little kids, we inspire everyone out here.”
It certainly stood as an inspirational effort and an incredible testament to the staff DeLano has on the sideline. The West Jersey Football League representatives were undersized compared to the Panthers by a large margin.
Still, the Haddons found a way, even behind the 8-ball. They never showed panic, only resolve.
That’s what tradition garners there.
Out of the three all-time regional championship games in South/Central 2, Haddonfield’s won two. The program also owns six sectional crowns during DeLano’s tenure.
“All credit to our coaches,” Wolff said. “At Haddonfield, we’ve never had the biggest guys, the D-I guys, but we find a way.
“We have heart, our coaches put us in the right spots to make plays and we do it. We make plays.”
Yet again. When the dust cleared, the Haddons stood alone.
Mark Trible covers high school football for Glory Days Magazine. Check out his weekly Facebook Live show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show can be seen at facebook.com/acglorydays. You can also take in Mark’s “Hat’s Off” podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m. at our Facebook page.