The University of Delaware has received a strong contribution from South Jersey athletes in reaching the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) title game. The Blue Hens (12-2) will meet Eastern Washington (12-2) for the FCS championship on Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
"We've had some great production from the South Jersey players," said Delaware coach K.C. Keeler, who knows the area well from his days as an assistant and then head coach at Rowan University.
Thirteen players who competed for South Jersey high schools are on the Delaware roster. The main contributors have been on offense.
Freshman running back Andrew Pierce, a 2009 graduate of Cumberland, has been the main offensive performer.
After doing course work at Salem County Community College in the fall of 2009, Pierce joined the program in the spring and has run with the ball, so to speak. He has rushed for 1,513 yards (5.0 average) and 13 touchdowns.
In Saturday's 27-10 semifinal win over Georgia Southern, Pierce rushed for 186 yards on 26 carries.
"Andrew Pierce came here as a walk-on, and he will be on full scholarship next year," Keeler said. "He's been outstanding."
Another former walk-on is junior wide receiver Mark Schenauer from Absegami. This season he has caught 34 passes for 492 yards and three touchdowns. Schenauer had never caught a touchdown pass until this year's playoffs, and he has had one in each of the Blue Hens' three postseason wins.
"Mark is one of those players who just finds a way to get open," Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin said. "He's done a great job for us."
Since going to Delaware as a walk-on, Schenauer has earned a scholarship.
"One of my thrills is getting a chance to bring a kid like Mark into my office and tell him we appreciate all he has done and award him a full scholarship," Keeler said. "He is a terrific player and a great leader."
Schenauer naturally is enjoying the postseason. In a 42-20 win over Lehigh, he had five receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Schenauer added four receptions for 43 yards and a score in a 16-3 quarterfinal victory over New Hampshire.
During the semifinal win over Georgia Southern, he scored the first touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Devlin and finished with two receptions for 23 yards.
"It's surreal, it's awesome, and such a great feeling," Schenauer said about the postseason. "To put in all the work in the off-season and during the season, it feels so good to be contributing like this."
Delaware's placekicker is junior Mike Perry of West Deptford. Perry has scored 99 points, converting 18 of 24 field-goal and 45 of 50 conversion kicks. He earned second-team all-Colonial Athletic Association honors.
Senior wide receiver Tommy Crosby of Hammonton has appeared in all 14 games. He has 38 receptions for 461 yards and two touchdowns.
Crosby is expected to play in the championship game, according to a Delaware official, after suffering an injury in the semifinal. He momentarily lost consciousness in the third quarter against Georgia Southern. Crosby was taken to Christiana Hospital and released the next day.
"Tommy has personally taken over the wide-receiver room in terms of being a leader," Keeler said. "We have a couple of young guys who are playing well, and a lot of it is due to his leadership."
The other players on the Delaware roster from South Jersey range in roles from backups to redshirts (see chart). Regardless of their roles, they are part of a program that is one victory away from winning a national championship.
This is Delaware's first title-game appearance since it lost to Appalachian State, 49-21, in 2007. Delaware's quarterback that year was Joe Flacco, a graduate of Audubon High who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.
It was yet another example of a South Jersey product making a major impact on the Delaware football program.
Delaware's South Jersey Players
NAME HT. WT. CLASS POS. HIGH SCHOOL COMMENT
Alessio Azzari 6-4 230 Fr. DL Gloucester Catholic Redshirted this season
Tim Breaker 6-0 186 So. DB Glassboro Has six tackles in 13 games
Brian Brown 6-3 188 Fr. WR Cherokee Appeared in one game
Nick Cattolico 6-4 335 Fr. OL Glassboro Has appeared in three games
Tommy Crosby 6-5 200 Sr. WR Hammonton Has 38 catches, 468 yards, 2 TDs
Lamar Gaines 5-7 155 Fr. DB Washington Township Redshirted this season
Charles Gushue 6-2 315 So. OL Shawnee Has appeared in three games
Jeff Haas 6-6 320 So. OL Ocean City Reserve offensive lineman
Mike Perry 5-8 188 Jr. PK West Deptford Second-team all-CAA choice
Andrew Pierce 5-11 200 Fr. RB Cumberland CAA offensive rookie of the year
Mark Schenauer 6-3 212 Jr. WR. Absegami Has caught a TD pass in all three playoff games
Nick Sulpizio 5-11 230 Fr. DL Eastern Redshirted this year
Ricky Tunstall 5-11 197 So. DB Glassboro Has eight tackles in 13 games
- Marc NarducciEndText