Delsea went 10-2 and reached the South Jersey Group 3 title game last season.
That was a rebuilding year.
The Crusaders aren't rebuilding any longer, although they have a loaded junior class. But this team looms as the favorite in SJ Group 3 as well as the WJFL Royal Division, and should be among the top five teams in South Jersey.
"We've got a chance to be pretty good," Delsea coach Sal Marchese said.
For a laconic, long-time coach such as Marchese, that's high praise. He's the kind that downplays his team's chances.
The key for the Crusaders in their best seasons -- and there have been many of them over the years -- is the work of the offensive line. That's the case again this season.
Delsea might challenge Shawnee and Holy Spirit for the best offensive line in South Jersey. They return four starters from the foundation of that 10-2 season, including star center Joe Moffa.
Other key linemen include seniors Zack Wilcox, Tom Mullin and GTRe Porch and junior Kobe Allen, the biggest of the bunch at 6-0, 303.
Delsea has two accomplished running backs in Marshall Brooks and OObie Pittman and a dangerous wingback in speedy Tyrone Saud. Brooks also is a top linebacker.
But the real reason Delsea has a chance to challenge for No. 1 in South Jersey -- if the cards fall right -- is junior quarterback Josh Awotunde.
Marchese said he's not sure he's ever had a quarterback as physically gifted as Awotunde, who is 6-2 and 225 pounds. Delsea's philosophy has been to run and run and run behind that powerful offensive line and with hard-carrying backs.
But Awotunde's passing prowess is forcing Marchese to reconsider his offensive approach. Marchese brought in former Buena coach Paul Callahan to work with the passing game and bring a new set of eyes -- and ideas -- to the team's game-planning and play-calling.
Awotunde can run. He actually looks like a fullback when he turns the corner. But it's his ability to throw the football that will make Delsea so different and so dangerous this season.
Delsea will be challenged in the WJFL Royal Division by Timber Creek and Triton, while Cumberland and Kingsway could be in the mix as well.
South Jersey Group 3 looks loaded with Delsea, Moorestown, Oakcrest and defending champion Lacey Township along with Hammonton, Mainland, Woodrow Wilson, Winslow Township and Timber Creek.
But the road to both the division and sectional title appears to run along Fries Mill Road, through Franklinville.
-- Phil Anastasia