Another in a series of early looks at South Jersey football teams
Last year: 6-4
Coach: Sal Marchese (144-53-1)
Conference outlook: The favorite in revamped WJFL Royal Division
Playoff outlook: The favorite in SJ 3
Opener: Sept. 7 vs. Camden
Delsea packed up the equipment early in 2011. Because the Crusaders didn't have a Thanksgiving weekend game, and because they didn't make the playoffs, a Nov. 11 consolation victory over Manchester Twp, marked the end of a disppointing season.
By Nov. 12, the Crusaders were focused on 2012.
"A bunch of juniors were standing on the sideline during that game and the coaches came up to us and said, 'Next year is going to be different,'" senior two-way lineman Cody Mayo said.
Delsea went 6-4 last season and missed the playoffs. It was a big step back for one of SJ's most accomplished programs, which had won the SJ 2 title in 2008 and 2009 and made the SJ 3 finals in 2010.
"I think a sense of entitlement (crept in)," Delsea coach Sal Marchese said. "You win championships by doing the little things and we didn't do that."
Delsea is determined to bounce back in a big way in 2012. The Crusaders have a strong offensive line led by Mayo, Dom Parisi, Kobie Allen and Jared Elmer.
"That's a physical group," Marchese said of his OL.
QB Josh Awotunde is one of the team's strongest players. He can squat 500 pounds and bench 280. He has offers from Buffalo and James Madison as a linebacker but might be going to college for track as some large midwestern schools have expressed interest in him as a discus thrower.
RB Tyrone Saud is a playmaker who scored 13 TD last season. The Crusaders also got a big boost from the appearance of junior WR/S Bryan Dobzanski, a wrestling and baseball star who is playing football for the first time in high school.
The 6-2, 200-pound Dobzanski could be a major Division I recruit in football, according to Marchese. He's a top athlete who can run 40 yards in the 4.5-second range. He's likely to pursue baseball after high school -- especially since he throws fastballs at 90 mph -- but he could make a major impact on the football field.
Marchese and Co. learned last season to take nothing for granted but Delsea looks like a heavy favorite in the WJFL Royal, where the second-best team is likely Cumberland or Bishop Eustace.
And SJ 3 looks a little watered-down by the expansion to five groups, with Burlington Twp., NBC and maybe Barnegat providing the biggest challenges to Delsea.
The Crusaders could make major hay in that division and that group. I don't want to jinx anybody on Aug. 19, but if they get past a Week Two challenge against Moorestown, these guys could be looking at a 12-0 season.
That means playing in early December, or a month later than they did in 2011.
"Last year was disappointing," Awotunde said. "This year, we're determined for things to be different."
-- Phil Anastasia