Things rarely went smoothly for Glassboro's football team this season, one marked by a series of key injuries.
The bumpy road, however, was righted in a shocking way at the most opportune time.
Putting together its most complete game of the season, Glassboro defeated visiting Paulsboro, 36-0, Saturday for the South Jersey Group 1 championship.
It was the third sectional title in the last four years for Glassboro (10-2) and the eighth since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974.
This was over a 9-3 Paulsboro team that had stunned defending champion and top-seeded Woodbury, 10-0, in the semifinals after losing to the Thundering Herd, 26-0, during the regular season.
"We have had a lot of injuries, but we have been persistent," said P.J. James, among the more injured and more persistent Bulldogs.
James scored three touchdowns - all in different ways - opening the scoring on a 4-yard run, and adding a 3-yard touchdown reception and a 32-yard interception return. He had suffered a high ankle sprain in an opening 13-12 win over Penns Grove and hasn't been 100 percent since, missing three full games and parts of others.
"It was tough not being able to go all the time, but it was great to finish things like this," said James, who gained 130 yards on 27 carries and, despite missing time, finished the year with 1,182 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, 11 on the ground.
Glassboro had to feel secure by halftime after sophomore Corey Clement scored on a 2-yard run and then kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead.
The way the defense was playing, that was more than enough.
Led by 6-foot-5, 317-pound senior tackle Charles Boltz, Glassboro controlled both lines of scrimmage.
"This was by far our best showing all year," Glassboro coach Herb Neilio said.
It's hard to believe that Glassboro had to fight just to reach the final, beating Pennsville, 27-21, in double overtime in the semifinals. The Bulldogs had to overcome a 21-7 halftime deficit in that game. The win over Pennsville avenged a regular-season 21-12 loss to the Eagles.
And staying in the avenging mood, Glassboro earned revenge in a big way over Paulsboro. Last year, Paulsboro bounced Glassboro from the playoffs with a 35-0 semifinal victory.
"We were on the other end last year and they could have scored 60 on us, but Paulsboro and coach Glenn Howard have a lot of class," Neilio said. "That is a great program, so you are always surprised when you win by this margin over them."
Neilio was pleased with all phases of his team's game Saturday, but he cited the work of the offensive line as truly exemplary. Besides Boltz, the line included guards Dan Klaszky and Quinn Haltiwanger, center Tom Rementer, and tackle Jordan Murray.
All the defensive players swarmed to the ball, led by end Christian James, the brother of P.J., who also made a 57-yard reception that set up the late first-half field goal.
Glassboro didn't let up in the second half. For a team that spent so much time in the trainer's room, the Bulldogs surely appeared healthy in a memorable closing performance.
Paulsboro 0 0 0 0 – 0
Glassboro 7 10 7 12 – 36
G: P.J. James 4 run (Corey Clement kick)
G: C. Clement 2 run (C. Clement kick)
G: FG C. Clement 33
G: Shaefon Davis 1 run (C. Clement kick)
G: P.J. James 3 pass from Stephen Clement (pass failed)
G: P.J. James 32 interception return (kick failed)