Delsea senior running back Isaiah Spencer is admittedly not a quick starter, but what a closer he has become.
For the second straight year, Spencer is playing his best football at the most opportune time: the postseason.
Both Spencer and his teammates seem to pick up their play at this time of the season. Delsea (7-4), the two-time defending sectional champion, will face Allentown (9-2) for the South Jersey Group 3 title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Rowan.
It will be the first time in its rich football history that Delsea will vie for its third consecutive South Jersey title.
A starter for Vineland in his first two high school seasons, Spencer joined Delsea last year and was a dominant ballcarrier.
Last season, Spencer rushed for 1,433 yards and 21 touchdowns on 126 carries (11.4 average). He came on strong during his junior year, finishing with seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games, including a 179-yard effort and one touchdown in the Crusaders' 31-7 win over Barnegat in the South Jersey Group 3 final.
This season, Spencer has rushed for 1,406 yards (8.9 avg.) and 16 touchdowns on 158 carries. True to Spencer's late-season nature, his top two games have been his last two, both in the postseason.
In a 42-0 win over Wall, he rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries. During a 20-6 semifinal win over Bridgeton, Spencer gained 208 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 65-yard run.
"This is kind of like last year when I started out slow and got progressively better," Spencer said.
Last season's slow start wasn't a surprise, because Spencer was adapting to a new program.
"It was a big change," he conceded.
What was different were the expectations. Vineland went 5-15 in his first two years. Delsea, which has won 11 sectional titles since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974, expects to contend on an almost annual basis.
"The kid loves football, but it took him a little while to adjust to the way we run things and the commitment we had," Delsea coach Sal Marchese Jr. said. "Once he did, he showed what an outstanding kid he is and has done anything we have asked of him."
That includes blocking. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound Spencer has the enviable combination of speed and strength.
"People always talk about his speed, but he is strong as a bull and can run inside or outside and is tough to bring down," Marchese said. "And he has really been blocking well, and it has really made our running game effective."
Delsea was hit hard by graduation after last year's title, and the youth showed.
"It was tough this year because there were a lot of young guys," Spencer said. "I was always the one who looked up to the older players."
As Spencer did, Delsea had slow starts the last two seasons. The Crusaders began last year 2-2 before winning their final eight games.
This year, the Crusaders lost their first three games. Over that stretch, Spencer rushed for 260 yards on 50 carries but was held to one touchdown.
"It blows my mind that we were 0-3, but we developed a chip on our shoulder," he said.
Spencer says Temple, Clemson, and Rutgers are the three schools he is considering the most. He also said junior college is a possibility.
For now, he's looking only toward Saturday, and hoping to end his senior season the same way he concluded his junior year.