FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP (N.J.) - Delsea senior fullback Jared Schoppe tore his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) a season ago and experienced a different type of excruciating pain.
The pain of being helpless. Helpless as in watching his teammates from the sideline without being able to contribute.
Then the 175-pound wrestler recovered and powered his way into the state final last season with an 8-3 win over Rumson-Fair Haven's Shay Addison. He did so while enduring the pain of an injured hand. Schoppe fell in the final to Brick Memorial's Harvey Ludington, 5-2.
The Delsea product is no stranger to adversity.
"It's a lot to overcome," Schoppe said. "Tearing my PCL, I was sitting on the sideline all last year. (I was) heartbroken watching our players. It's fueling me up not playing last year. I'm looking to make a statement this year."
Schoppe embodied the mission statement of Delsea football, scoring three rushing touchdowns as the Crusaders powered past Winslow, 35-21, in a heavyweight West Jersey Football League Independence Division matchup on Friday night.
The senior's resurgence complemented by his latest performance epitomized the motto 'Delsea Tough.'
"We're trying to bring that tradition back," Schoppe said. "You have to be a bad dude. For a couple years we fell short and we just weren't tough enough. We didn't want it bad enough. I'm trying to get these guys to know what 'Delsea Tough' means. Its a big thing to say. You can say it, but do you really show it? I felt like we showed it tonight."
"Big win," he added. "Our guys rallied together. We showed a lot of heart."
The senior tallied 136 yards from scrimmage and scored on each of the Crusaders' first two possessions. Delsea and Winslow were knotted at 14 at intermission. The score held until Schoppe punched in a four-yard rushing score with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
On the Eagles' next possession, quarterback Jimmy Wilson, Jr. evaded the pocket on third-and-11 and dashed for a 35-yard touchdown to even the count at 21.
Junior Dom Teti retaliated with an 82-yard kickoff return touchdown to give the Crusaders a 28-21 lead with 31.8 seconds remaining in the third stanza.
Delsea never trailed again.
"Short kick, it rolled," Teti said. "I picked it up and I saw the hole. Burst through and scored a touchdown. Simple as that. It was a big win."
Delsea ceased a Winslow drive on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line to maintain a seven-point lead and retain possession with 6:16 left in regulation. Quarterback Luke Maxwell capped the ensuing drive with a 23-yard rushing touchdown to give the Crusaders a decisive 35-21 advantage with only 1:31 left to play.
Penn State coach James Franklin helicoptered in to watch Winslow's Ejani Shakir and Cameron Miller. Shakir, a Nittany Lions commit, reeled in 12 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
The Crusaders improved their record to 2-0 and will visit Ocean City in another pivotal WJFL Independence Division showdown on September 16. Through two contests, Delsea has outscored its opponents 82-28. The Crusaders have also won 18 out of their last 19 matchups dating back to October 2020.
"We executed on offense and didn't make too many mental mistakes," Delsea coach Sal Marchese said. "We emphasized execution all week. We just got to execute, keep playing our style, be patient. And I think we did that."
Marchese also agreed that a portion of that success can be credited to the unwavering spirit of Schoppe.
"He's just an unbelievably tough kid," Marchese said. "He signifies Delsea football. He's just tough, he's not the biggest kid in the world, he's not the fastest kid in the world. But he's a grinder. He's a tough kid and a heck of a leader."