They entered the field holding aloft the jersey of one injured offensive lineman.
They left the field in the company of another injured offensive lineman.
In between, Delsea's football team fought off a fierce challenge from Woodrow Wilson and captured the program's 14th
sectional title, and seventh in the last 10 seasons.
Delsea's 29-28 victory in a pulse-pounding South Jersey Group 3 final on Saturday at Rowan University was secured by the
margin of two special-teams plays, a couple of late defensive stands, and a gritty display of the team's depth and determination.
"Next man up," said Delsea senior center Tommy Maxwell, who went down with an ankle injury late in the first quarter.
Junior Aidan Borguet ran for a pair of touchdowns, and senior Tymir Kizee scored one touchdown and stopped a Woodrow Wilson drive with a goal-line interception for Delsea (9-3), the No. 4 seed.
The victory was the 200th for Delsea coach Sal Marchese, who has guided the team to nine South Jersey titles in 25 seasons.
"Two hundred is 200," Marchese said. "You hang around long enough, you're going to get wins. I'm just happy for these
kids. They've worked their butts off since December and they really battled today."
Junior quarterback Nick Kargman was 24 for 38 for 305 yards and three touchdowns for second-seeded Woodrow Wilson (8-4).
Senior Jairo Ramos caught seven passes for 111 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a score for the Tigers, who rallied
from a 15-0 deficit to take a 28-22 lead late in the third quarter.
"Our kids played hard and inspired all the way through," Woodrow Wilson coach Preston Brown said. "It's tough because
nobody remembers who finished No. 2."
Marchese was concerned before the game for a couple of reasons. One, the Crusaders were physically depleted, with junior
starting guard Colin Poisker sidelined with an ankle injury and junior reserve guard Kevin Gilliano out with a knee injury.
The Crusaders went onto the field before kickoff with senior linemen Will Sneathen and Joe Travers holding Poisker's No. 63
Marchese also wondered about his players' focus after a 41-30 win over then-No. 1 Timber Creek in the semifinals.
"It probably was the toughest job we've had in 25 years, getting our kids focused," Marchese said.
Then in the first quarter, the Crusaders lost their team leader when Maxwell wrenched his ankle.
"I feel like we jinxed it because all week we said with Colin out the worst player in the world to lose would be
Maxwell," Marchese said.
Delsea adjusted as senior tight end Max Crawford moved to guard and sophomore Jake Smith took Maxwell's place under center.
"It was tough," said Delsea senior quarterback Mason Maxwell, who is Tommy Maxwell's uncle. "I started crying at halftime,
that's my brother there."
Delsea beat Woodrow Wilson, 43-12, on Oct. 27. But this was a different Tigers team, as Kargman kept firing darts to
Ramos and junior wide receiver Stanley King, and sophomore end Fadill Diggs led an inspired defensive effort.
"They're good," Kizee said of the Tigers. "We knew it would be tough because they didn't want to lost to us twice."
Kargman's 11-yard touchdown pass to Travon King completed a furous comeback and gave Woodrow Wilson a 28-22 lead. But
Delsea senior lineman Bill Goldsborough blocked the extra-point attempt.
"We probably should have gone for two," Brown said.
Delsea drove 63 yards for as go-ahead score, with Maxwell and Borguet picking up yardage behind that patch-work offensive
line. Borguet finished the drive with a 1-yard burst into the end zone, and senior Larry Holdcraft provided the ultimate
margin for victory with a placement for a 29-28 lead with nine minutes, 51 seconds left.
"Came down to special teams," Mason Maxwell said.
Woodrow Wilson had two chances to retake the lead, but Kizee ended one drive with a diving interception at the goal-line of
a pass deflected by Goldsborough, and sophomore Shaikyi Hannah squelched the Tigers' last drive with a break-up of
Kargman's final pass.
"It's surreal," Kizee said. "Losing Tommy was a crucial loss, but we were able to come back and play harder.
"Coach always tells us, this game is all about how you handle the adversity."
Delsea 7 8 7 7 — 29
Woodrow Wilson 0 14 14 0 — 28
D: Aidan Borguet 20 run (Larry Holdcraft kick)
D: Tymir Kizee 10 run (Borguet run)
WW: Stanley King 27 pass from Nick Kargman (pass fail)
WW:Jairo Ramos 20 pass from Kargman (Fadill Diggs pass from Kargman)
D: Shaikyi Hannah 49 pass from Mason Maxwell (Holdcraft kick)
WW: Ramos 1 run (Stanley King pass from Kargman)
WW: Travon King 11 pass from Kargman (kick fail)
D: Borguet 1 run (Holdcraft kick)