(Photo courtesy of Brian Gallagher)
By MARK TRIBLE
South Jersey Glory Days Football Writer
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — By the time the dew sat on this football-rabid locale on Friday, it felt like pigskin season for the first time in the calendar year.
It accompanied the grunts and thuds that echoed through the night that made it sound like autumn, too.
Delsea football is built for such nights. It’s rough-and-tough and asks for more when most would tap out.
It’s like senior fullback and linebacker Jared Schoppe. Behind steely blue eyes and boyish confidence, he took a moment to reveal his belief system of what the red-and-white represents.
“It is dirt tough and you’ve got to be a bad dude,” the 6-foot, 205-pounder said. “We’re trying to bring that tradition back.
“For a couple years, we just weren’t tough enough. We didn’t want it bad enough. Now, I’m trying to get these guys to know what ‘Delsea Tough’ means. You can say it, but do you really show it? I felt like we showed it tonight.”
A 35-21 triumph over Winslow stood as good evidence to support Schoppe’s claim about the Crusaders (2-0, 1-0 West Jersey Football League Independence). He played a large part in that with three touchdown runs. He pounded his body into the Eagles (0-2, 0-1 WJFL Independence) all night on the defensive side.
There is something to this Delsea club, ranked No. 2 in the South Jersey Football Frenzy Show/Glory Days Best 11 rankings. Schoppe is the heartbeat of that indescribable trait.
Last season, the Crusaders went 11-1. They didn’t play a game within 24 points until a sectional final loss to unbeaten Cedar Creek. Yet, their schedule didn’t match up with the talent on the roster. A new turn of the West Jersey Football League matchups made for a better slate.
As No. 10 Winslow came to town, Crusaders coach Sal Marchese saw the opportunity to have his team play with purpose.
“That’s what I preached before the game, we’ve got to be confident against these teams,” Marchese said. “These teams that throw it, they have a little bit different style than us.
“Go out, be confident, make plays, but the big thing was to stay calm, stay poised and make plays.”
Schoppe did. So, too, did Dom Teti. His 82-yard kickoff return in the third quarter proved the game winner. It came right after Jimmy Wilson’s brilliant 35-yard run for the Eagles knotted the score at 21-apiece.
“I saw the open field and hit it and took off,” Teti said. “Simple as that.”
The clock had 31.8 seconds left in the frame when Teti hit the end zone. Zach Maxwell’s 23-yard sprint for score capped the points late in the fourth.
His pass to Schoppe that spanned 55 yards earlier in the drive served as a dagger. It came moments after Delsea stood tall on 4th-and-1 at its own 3-yard line.
Red jerseys thwarted Wilson’s run on the right side.
“It’s not fun beating teams and you’re off the sideline by halftime,” Schoppe said. “I love to go to war, I love to battle every single play.”
Apt for a Crusader.
“Every play matters in these type of games and I love that,” he said. “… We’ve got other big games ahead of us that are going to be wars and that’s just preparing us for the end of the season.”
Marchese is glad to have Schoppe out in front of the charge of the red unit.
“He’s just an unbelievably tough kid, that’s what he is,” coach Sal Marchese said. “He signifies Delsea football.”
A bad dude.
What’s next: Delsea travels to face Ocean City on Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.. Winslow has a bye, then hosts Shawnee on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.
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.