FRANKLIN TWP. -- Before last year’s 11-1 championship campaign, the previous three seasons the Delsea Regional High School football team started off with a .500 record or worse before rebounding to win a South Jersey Group 3 title.
The Crusaders played Friday night like a team trying to make it four out of five years being the comeback kids.
Quarterback Keelan Borguet ran for two touchdowns and threw for another as Delsea jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead and won its third straight game, 42-3, over Eastern in West Jersey League National Division play. With the victory, the Crusaders (4-3 overall, 3-1 in the National) have their first winning record of the year.
“I think we are (hitting our stride), we’ve got the wheels spinning again,” said Borguet, who rushed for a game-high 137 yards on just four carries. “We’re practicing a lot harder than we were at the beginning of the season. We’re playing together as a team also now.”
“I think the main thing is we’re practicing better,” coach Sal Marchese agreed. “We’re practicing harder…. There’s no more complacency. When you start out 1-3, I think all that complacency is done and over with.
“When you have the success we’ve had the last four years, you’ve got to guard against that complacency. We weren’t practicing with detail in the beginning of the year, but I think we’re starting to do that right now.”
In his third game back since leaving the season opening loss to Timber Creek with an Achilles strain, Borguet ran the Crusaders offense comfortably. It showed most with the team’s bread-and-butter fake handoffs, which led to TD runs of 55 and 56 yards on the senior’s first two carries of the night just two minutes apart to opposite sides of the field.
“I was touched on the second play,” Borguet admitted. “The corner shot it and I had to bounce it outside, but on the first play I wasn’t touched. … I came to the sideline (after the first TD) and said to (running back) Rashaad (Williams), ‘He’s running the same play when we get back on the field.’ I knew it was coming.”
“A big part of our offense is that read option, and we really haven’t been running it real well this year,” said Marchese. “It’s tough for new quarterbacks to get a grasp of it, and he’s been hurt. He’s getting better, and we’ve just got to continue to work on it.”
Taj Summiel’s 19-yard interception return for touchdown just two plays after Borguet’s second score made it 21-0 Crusaders just five minutes in, and they cruised from there. Williams added 63 rushing yards and two TDs, and Summiel was wide open for a 24-yard TD on Borguet’s only pass attempt of the night midway through the second quarter.
The clock ran throughout the second half as Delsea took a 35-0 advantage into the locker room at halftime, with only Zach Tallmadge’s 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter keeping the Vikings (2-5, 1-3) from being the Crusaders’ third shutout victim in the last five games.
“We’re getting better and better on defense,” said Summiel. “We know defense wins championships like everybody says, and we’re getting better every week. Our offense is good, but we’re trying to get our defense just as good. That’s been our main focus for a while now.”
Delsea entered play Friday sitting eighth in power points in Group 3, knowing that every win would count to avoid being on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin. Things don’t get easier with a trip to Woodrow Wilson next Saturday, but this is a position with which the team is getting familiar.
“I think it’s … not better for us to start slow, but it gives us more motivation when we do,” Borguet said. “The playoffs started a lot earlier for us than most teams out there. We know we can’t lose, and we come out with that attitude that we won’t lose.”
Each of the past four seasons, the Crusaders wound up with at least one home game to open the postseason. It doesn’t look like that will happen this year without some help, but it hasn’t diminished the hopes of a fifth straight championship for the storied program.
“We still need to get better for Woodrow Wilson, and we need to keep improving,” Summiel said. “But we’ve got our quarterback back … and now we’re rolling. We need to keep the wheels rolling and stay on pace, but I think we’ll be good.”
Scott Chappelear writes for South Jersey Sports Digest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @srchappie.
Delsea 42, Eastern 3
Eastern 0 0 0 3 -3
Delsea 21 14 7 0 -42
D: Keelan Borguet 55 run (Larry Holdcraft kick)
D: Borguet 56 run (Holdcraft kick)
D: Taj Summiel 19 interception return (Holdcraft kick)
D: Summiel 24 pass from Borguet (Holdcraft kick)
D: Rashaad Williams 3 run (Holdcraft kick)
D: Williams 3 run (Holdcraft kick)
E: Zach Tallmadge 28 field goal