Mason Maxwell believed in his team.
But his was not faith without action.
The Delsea senior spent the week telling his teammates they were capable of upsetting top-ranked Timber Creek in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals.
He spread the same message in the visiting locker room before Friday night's showdown on the Chargers' home field in Erial.
But it's one thing to talk a big game.
It's another to deliver the most impressive performance of your career on the big stage, with your senior season on the line, against an opponent that hadn't lost in more than two years.
Maxwell ran for three touchdowns, passed for two more and lifted a pair of interceptions as a defensive back to power Delsea to a 41-30 victory over previously undefeated Timber Creek on a cool, clear night that won't soon be forgotten by the Crusader faithful.
"It means a lot," Maxwell said. "To come in here and win this game, it really means a lot and shows what Delsea football is all about."
The stunning victory sent Delsea (8-3), the No. 4 seed, into the South Jersey Group 3 title game Dec. 2 at Rowan University.
Delsea, which won four straight sectional titles before falling in the finals last season, will meet the winner of Saturday's semnifinal between Woodrow Wilson and Lakewood.
The loss ended Timber Creek's bid to capture its third straight sectional title and also halted the Chargers' 25-game winning streak.
Timber Creek (9-1), the No. 1 seed and the No. 1 team in the Inquirer Top 25, was undone by five turnovers in the second half, including two miscues on special teams.
Delsea coach Sal Marchese embraced Timber Creek senior quarterback Devin Leary, the state record-holder for career passing yards and passing touchdowns, after the game.
"I told him he's the best I've ever seen," Marchese said. "I've been a head coach 25 years, assistant for five before that, and he's the best, no question."
Delsea got a strong game from junior running back Aidan Borguet, who carried the football 37 times for 220 yards and scored two touchdowns.
"We just believed in ourselves," Borguet said. "We're a young team but we believe in ourselves."
Said Maxwell of Borguet: "He's a workhorse. Boy, you talk about a guy who works in the weight room."
Delsea overcame a 23-7 deficit early in the third quarter. The Crudsaders outscored the Chargers, 34-7, in the game's final 17 minutes and 15 seconds.
"We just kept grinding," Maxwell said. "We never really gave up or thought we couldn't come back."
Turnovers changed the game. His team down by 16 midway in third quarter, Maxwell scored on a two-yard run, then picked off a Leary pass and raced to the Timber Creek 32.
Four plays later, Maxwell scored again on a 1-yard run to make to 23-20.
Timber Creek lost a fumble on the next play and Borguet raced 45 yards on the first snap of the series for a 27-23 lead with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Timber Creek regained its bearings as Leary and senior running back Kyle Dobbins fueled an impressive 80-yard drive. Leary fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jayvin Little to give the Chargers back the lead with 9:45 left.
Timber Creek's defense forced a punt, but the football bounced off a Chargers' player and Delsea recovered.
Maxwell made it count with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Khaliel Burnett for a 34-30 lead with 4:21 to play.
"The quarterback makes this offense work," Marchese said of Maxwell. "He played with so much confidence in the second half."
Things went from bad to worse for Timber Creek when Delsea's kickoff hit a clump of mud and bounced backwards and was recovered by Delsea.
That led to Maxwell's second touchdown pass, a 29-yard to Borguet, who swung around the right side, cut back and burst into the end zone.
Maxwell sealed the win with his second interception, ending Timber Creek's last chance and lighting the fuse that exploded in a wild post-game celebration.
"You have to have senior leaders to win a game like this," Marchese said. "That's what Mason is."
Delsea 0 7 20 14 — 41
Timber Creek 7 9 7 7 — 30
TC: Jayvin Little 38 pass from Tarheeb Still (Zach Coluccio kick)
D: Mason Maxwell 1 run (Larry Holcroft kick)
TC: Coluccio 36 FG
TC: Jerome Gibson 16 pass from Devin Leary (kick fail)
TC: Kyle Dobbins 9 run (Coluccio kick)
D: Maxwell 2 run (run fail)
D: Maxwell 1 run (Holcroft kick)
D: Aidan Borguet 45 run (Holcroft kick)
TC: Little 16 pass from Leary (Coluccio kick)
D: Khaliel Burnett 29 pass from Maxwell (Holcroft kick)
D: Borguet 29 pass from Maxwell (Holcroft kick)