Dakota Brovero likes the weight room so much he wants to make a living in there.
"I want to be a strength coach," said Brovero, a senior two-way lineman for Delsea.
Crusaders coach Sal Marchese calls Brovero "a typical Delsea program player," and he means that as the highest compliment.
The 6-foot, 222-pound Brovero has spent much of his high school career in the Crusaders' weight room - which is one reason he'll be playing his final football game in the South Jersey Group 3 final.
"That's original Delsea," Brovero said of the Crusaders' commitment to off- and in-season conditioning and weight training.
Brovero has led the way as Delsea has rallied from a 2-2 start to win nine in a row and move into position to capture its 11th South Jersey title.
Brovero plays guard on offense. He toggles between tackle and end on defense.
"He's our in-season leader and our offseason leader," Marchese said.
Brovero is far and away the most experienced member of the offensive line. He played some as a sophomore and started as a junior.
He said the offensive line has come together in the last few weeks, clearing the way for running backs Isaiah Spencer and Rob Hooks.
"We've really started to mesh," Brovero said.
A true lineman, Brovero said he takes quiet satisfaction from the success of the running game, even though most of the focus is on the guys carrying the football.
"I like the idea that even though we might not get recognition, we know we opened the holes to make it happen," Brovero said.
Marchese said the success of the Delsea program has been built on the broad shoulders of the team's offensive linemen.
"Our offensive line makes our team go," Marchese said. "It's always been that way here."
Brovero also has been a key member of the Delsea defense, which has been the other key to the Crusaders' resurgence after a so-so start.
Marchese said the defense's dominant play in a 27-10 victory over top-seeded Manasquan in the sectional semifinals was one for the books.
"In my 21 years, I don't remember many games where we played better defense," Marchese said.
Brovero, a top student who plans to attend Gettysburg or Ithaca and continue his football career, said the team's success in a hostile environment against a highly touted opponent could be traced back to all those nights in the weight room.
"We might not be the biggest or the fastest," Brovero said. "But we have the strength to go toe-to-toe with anybody. We know we've paid the price, and that gives us a lot of confidence."
Delsea vs. Barnegat
Saturday, 4 p.m. at Rowan
Previous titles: Delsea, 10 (2012, 2005, 2000, 1979 in S.J. 3; 2009, 2008, 1986, 1984, 1982, 1976 in S.J. 2). Barnegat, none.
Coaches: Delsea, Sal Marchese (21st season, 164-56-1); Rob Davis, Barnegat (seventh season, 39-33).
How Delsea can win: Keep the momentum going. Spring junior running back Isaiah Spencer (104 carries, 1,244 yards, 20 TDs) and senior running back Rob Hooks (179 carries, 1,028 yards). Maintain the defensive dominance that has fueled the team's nine-game winning streak. Get big plays from senior quarterback/defensive back Rob Rolle, a Villanova recruit.
How Barnegat can win: Get big plays from dual-threat junior quarterback Cinjun Erskine (1,061 yards and 14 TDs passing; 630 yards and 6 TDs rushing), who has a Miami offer. Run senior back A.J. Opre (682 yards, 11 TDs) behind 6-foot-7, 330-pound junior tackle Sam Madden, who has offers from Iowa, Rutgers, West Virginia, and Pitt.
Fast fact I: Both Erskine and Madden started their careers at Holy Spirit.
Fast fact II: Delsea is 15-2 in the playoffs since 2005.
- Phil Anastasia