The expectations couldn't have been higher this season for Delsea's football team, which was expected to rebound from an off season - if going 6-4 constitutes that.
Delsea was labeled the preseason South Jersey Group 3 favorite. So when the Crusaders lost, 31-28, to Moorestown, there were questions about Delsea's mortality.
Actually, the questions stopped because Moorestown has made a habit of beating ranked teams in the early going, and despite the loss, things are just fine with the Crusaders.
They proved that with Friday night's 21-19 victory over visiting Kingsway in a briskly played nonleague game that showcased outstanding big-play ability from both teams.
So if anybody in Group 3 was getting its hopes up that Delsea (3-1) would be down, well, think again.
"We know there are high expectations, and we expect a lot from ourselves," Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. said.
The Crusaders, who are 3-1 in sectional finals since 2005, live by the run, and wow, can they move it on the ground.
Ranked No. 6 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, Delsea is now a threat to throw the ball, even though the attempts remain low.
After Kingsway took a 6-0 lead on an 80-yard sprint by electrifying junior Ray Lawry, Delsea earned a 7-6 advantage when quarterback Josh Awotunde found a wide-open Rob Rolle at about the Kingsway 20, and Rolle dodged tacklers en route to a 44-yard score.
In the first half, Awotunde was 3 for 3 for 90 yards passing.
Delsea then extended the lead when Tyrone Saud, the team's punter, scored on a 44-yard run off a fake punt in the second quarter. Saud (10 carries, 91 yards) isn't exactly a punter who occasionally carries the ball. He's a dangerous running back who happens to punt on the rare occasions when Delsea is stopped.
"I was running it all the way," Saud said. "It's something we always work on."
Kingsway (2-2) looks like a Group 4 playoff contender, but the Dragons must face Triton, defending champion Pennsauken, and Williamstown before the cutoff date, so it won't be easy.
"I think we're a playoff team," said Lawry, who made a visit last week to Penn State.
Lawry, who finished with 204 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, got the Dragons to within 14-12 on a 76-yard scoring run in the third quarter.
Delsea's Stephan Lewis tackled Kingsway quarterback Robert Green on the two-point conversion run.
Awotunde, who at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds is both fast and powerful, extended Delsea's lead to 21-12 on a 9-yard scoring run with 5 minutes, 14 seconds left.
That became much more than an insurance TD when Kingsway's Brendon Irving went 24 yards to cut the margin to 21-19 with 1:48 remaining.
Delsea would survive and, despite a young defense, looks every bit capable of justifying those preseason expectations.
Kingsway 6 0 6 7 – 19
Delsea 7 7 0 7 – 21
K: Ray Lawry 80 run (kick failed).
D: Rob Rolle 44 pass from Josh Awotunde (Bronson Deckert kick).
D: Tyrone Saud 44 run (Deckert kick).
K: Lawry 76 run (run failed).
D: Awotunde 9 run (Deckert kick).
K: Brendon Irving 24 run (Tyler Bell kick).
Contact Marc Narducci at email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @sjnard.