Here’s a look at the Crusaders:
Last season: 9-3, won S.J. Group 3 title.
Coach: Sal Marchese (200-69-1 entering his 26th season).
9/7: at Willingboro
9/14: at West Deptford
9/28: Burlington Twp.
10/5: Camden Catholic
10/13: at Woodrow Wilson
10/19: Cedar Creek
10/26: at Bridgeton
Outlook: The Crusaders ended the 2017 season on an eight-game winning streak, stunning defending champion Timber Creek in the S.J. 3 semifinals and beating Woodrow Wilson, 29-28, in a big-time battle in the sectional final at Rowan University. That marked Delsea’s fifth title in the last six seasons, and ninth since 2000. This team is more than capable of adding another piece of hardware to the crowded trophy case in Franklinville.
Leading the way will be senior RB/LB Aidan Borguet (5-10, 190), who would have a place in Delsea lore if he never played another game. Borguet last season set a school record with 2,208 rushing yards. He scored 31 TDs. He set the school’s single-game record with 366 yards in a wild loss to Timber Creek in the opener — a game that set the tone for both his season and the team’s. Borguet is part of a loaded offensive backfield that will include junior RB/DB Shaikyi Hannah (5-9, 170), who scored 6 TDs last season. The QB in the team’s flex-bone offense likely will be senior James Vargo (6-0, 190) or junior Damir Lomax (5-10, 170); both are dynamic runners. Junior WR/DB Kiyon Willis (6-2, 185) is another key player.
— Philip Anastasia (@PhilAnastasia) August 17, 2018
A lot will depend on the development of the offensive line, which lost four starters from last year’s championship team. Sr. Colin Poisker (6-3, 290) is a returning starter, and senior OL Kevin Gilliano (6-1, 270) also saw a lot of playing time. Junior Jake Smith (6-1, 230) is another lineman to watch.
Delsea’s defense should be solid. Senior LB Keison Fowler (6-0, 190) made 100 tackles last season. Junior LB Jay Wright (6-1, 200) made 101. Borguet is likely to see more action on defense this season. Junior DE Jake Nwosu (6-1, 205) could be an impact player.
Schedule analysis: Four games in September, four games in October. Eight straight weeks and that’s it for the regular season, as the Crusaders opted not to add a ninth game. Delsea has moved to the WJFL Constitution, a loaded division that includes Camden, Woodrow Wilson, Cedar Creek, Willingboro and Camden Catholic. The schedule includes an interesting cross-over game Sept. 14 at West Deptford in a battle that will match teams that have won a combined 16 sectional titles since 2000. Another cross-over features a Sept. 28 visit from Burlington Township, which could seriously contend for the S.J. Group 3 title (although the Falcons also could end up in Central Jersey Group 3 under the NJSIAA’s new playoff system). On Oct. 13, Delsea will travel to East Camden to face Woodrow Wilson in what will be the third meeting between the teams in the last two seasons. It also could be a playoff preview, as the Crusaders and Tigers could square off again in this year’s S.J. 3 tournament.
— Philip Anastasia (@PhilAnastasia) August 14, 2018
Player to watch: Poisker is “the definition of a steamroller,” according to Borguet. Poisker is the lone returning starter along the offensive line for the Crusaders. Delsea football starts with the OL. This year, the challenge will fall to veteran OL coach Ronn Flaim to rebuild a group that lost four starters from last year’s championship squad. But the coach has a strong foundation in Poisker, who understands the importance of the offensive line in Delsea’s style of football. Poisker was hurt in the sectional-semifinal win over Timber Creek but has made a strong recovery. He’s determined to build on 2017 and finish his career with a flourish. “Last year was the time of my life,” Poisker said. “I want to keep that going. I know that we have to set the tone up front.”