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Phil Anastasia: Jackson's passing set up the win

Delsea coach Sal Marchese says his assistants tease him about the Crusaders' two-minute offense, which is really more like a four-minute offense.

Delsea coach Sal Marchese says his assistants tease him about the Crusaders' two-minute offense, which is really more like a four-minute offense.

"We practice it every day," Marchese said, rolling his eyes. "No, not really."

Delsea is an old-school team and Marchese is an old-school coach. Running game. Defense. Special teams. More running game.

Marchese likes his quarterbacks to be smart. To make good decisions. To protect the football.

But there are times - and one arrived last night in the final moments of a tied sectional championship football game - when circumstances demand a little more from a coach, a team and, especially, a quarterback.

Delsea's Chris Jackson said the Crusaders passed the football "maybe three or four times a game" this season.

"Sometimes, not even that often," Jackson said.

It's funny how things work out. Marchese told Jackson all week that his play would be the key in Delsea's battle with West Deptford for the South Jersey Group 2 championship.

The coach was right.

He also was wrong.

Marchese was thinking about Jackson's running, and the shifty junior did plenty of that on a cold night on the Crusaders' home field. Skirting both ends after faking to fullback Austin Medley, Jackson gained 110 yards on 12 carries.

But nobody - not Marchese, not Jackson, and probably not anybody from West Deptford - figured Jackson would make the biggest plays of the game with his arm.

"We're really not a passing team," Jackson said, in the understatement of the night.

Jackson threw just seven passes. But he completed five of them for 69 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown to Casmir Okoro in the first half and a 21-yard strike to Darius Convery that moved the football to the West Deptford 6-yard line with five seconds on the clock.

After a spike, Jackson and the offense turned the final play over to kicker Mike Straubmuller, whose 23-yard field goal as time expired lifted Delsea to a dramatic 17-14 victory.

"It was like playing in the back yard," the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Jackson said of the last drive.

The Crusaders took over at their own 11 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds remaining. After a false-start penalty, they were at their own 6, and huddling in the end zone.

"The thing we didn't want to do was lose the game," Marchese said.

Delsea going 88 yards in the final minutes of a game without a running play covering more than 15 yards?

Not in their coach's wildest dreams.

But the junior quarterback had other ideas. Jackson was the guy who had that 15-yard run, and it converted a second-and-13 from the 8. Three more runs moved the Crusaders to the 36.

Jackson hit Dylan Wilton for 4 yards. Time-out.

Another run and then Jackson hit Okoro for 11 yards and another first down. Time-out.

Another run, and Jackson hit Okoro for 1 yard. But a West Deptford penalty moved the football to the 29.

There were 25 seconds left. Jackson threw an incompletion, ran for 2 yards – what, Delsea forget the run? – and then fired a perfect spiral that Convery caught along the right sideline.

"It was a fade-seam," Jackson said. "I wanted to hit Casmir in the seam, but the safety was right there. I threw it out there and Darius made a great play."

It was some drive. And if it wasn't exactly Delsea football, it was exactly what Marchese expects from his quarterback.

"He's such a heady kid," the coach said. "He's the point guard on the basketball team, and you can see that. He's always making good decisions."

Jackson said Marchese told him all week the game was in his hands. He just didn't mention that it would involve an 88-yard drive in the frantic final four minutes capped by a 21-yard passing strike on a play that began with 0:12 on the clock.

"I'd love to pass the ball more," Jackson said. "But I love playing for Delsea."