• Dan Russoman

Delsea runs past slumping Hammonton


Hammonton’s Lucas Goehringer (32) tries to run around Delsea defender Luke Maxwell early in last week’s game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Trailing 6-0 to Delsea early in the first quarter, Hammonton High School’s C.J Rossiter fielded a kickoff at his own 3-yard line.


Rossiter broke a tackle, cut toward the home sideline and raced 97-yards for a touchdown that helped give the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead against a heavily-favored Crusaders’ team.


That score gave Hammonton some early momentum and confidence, but it proved to be the lone highlight of the night for the Blue Devils who failed to move the ball effectively all game and struggled to stop Delsea’s strong ground attack in a 31-7 loss.


Delsea came into the game undefeated and one of the top-ranked teams in southern New Jersey. The Crusaders were averaging more than 40 points per game and taking on a Hammonton squad that had lost three of its first five games and had scored just 33 points since winning its season-opener 32-13 against Absegami.


In last week’s game, Hammonton continued to struggle up front, as Delsea grinded out more than 350 yards on the ground while limiting the Blue Devils to just 18 rushing yards.


The Crusaders more experienced line was able to open holes for running backs Luke Maxwell and Jaedyn Stewart, as well as quarterback Zach Maxwell, who each ran for more than 90 yards in the win.


“Delsea doesn’t do anything fancy. They want to run the football and that’s what they did tonight. We weren’t able to stop them,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.


Mistakes also hurt Hammonton. The Blue Devils were hampered by a pair of turnover as well as a few costly penalties, one of which allowed Delsea to take an early lead.


On the opening drive of the game, Hammonton’s Jaron Hill appeared to intercept a Zach Maxwell pass near midfield but Hill was flagged for pass interference on the play, allowing the Delsea drive to continue.


“I didn’t agree with the explanation we got from the officials,” Raso said.


“That’s the kind of stuff we’re not good enough to overcome. We get a turnover and then they’re getting the ball back. We need those kinds of things in order to be successful,” Raso said.


Six plays after the penalty, Delsea was in the end zone as Luke Maxwell scored on a 6-yard run.


Delsea missed the extra point, and on the ensuing kickoff Rossiter electrified the crowd and the Hammonton sideline with a 97-yard return for a touchdown that, along with Drew Fields’ extra point, gave the Blue Devils a 7-6 lead.


Delsea immediately answered back, this time driving 64 yards and settling for a 35-yard field goal from Mason Carr that gave the lead back to the Crusaders.


The Blue Devils hadn’t run an offensive play and when they did, showed a new look led by quarterback Billy Way.


Way was playing his first game as a Blue Devil after transferring to Hammonton a few days before the matchup.


With Way in a shotgun formation, Hammonton threw the football, moving the ball down the field effectively.


Way played at Camden Catholic in 2020 and was at Overbrook before arriving at Hammonton last week.


“Listen, you’re talking about a kid who didn’t get a whole lot of practice time. He has a live arm and that’s something possibly to build on at this point. And we’ll see where it goes from here,” Raso said,


Way’s arm strength and accuracy gave Hammonton a dynamic it hadn’t shown all season. The ability to throw the ball downfield as well as Way’s ability to quickly adjust to a new team impressed the coaching staff.


“He [Way] only had a few days of practice, but we really like what we’ve seen so far and he has a lot of potential. We were able to put a package in for this week and it worked well,” Raso said.


Hammonton’s first possession stalled and Delsea again drove for a touchdown, as Luke Maxwell’s 2-yard run put the Crusaders ahead 16-7.


Hammonton’s next two drive ended in fumbles recovered by Delsea. The Crusaders capitalized on the second, driving 32 yards in four plays, capped by Zach Maxwell’s 20-yard touchdown run.


Another miscue hurt Hammonton just before the half when a Fields kneeled down in the end zone to field a low snap on a punt, resulting in a safety and a 24-7 halftime lead for Delsea.


The Crusaders tacked on a score on their first drive of the second half, this one ending in Stewart’s 32-yard romp into the end zone.


Both teams kept the ball on the ground the rest of the way as Delsea was able to control the clock and the tempo.


The loss was the third in four games for Hammonton and damaged the Blue Devils already slim playoff hopes. The Devils struggles have been frustrating, but Raso is staying positive.


“There is a light at the end of this tunnel, we just have to get there. The young guys are seeing it all for the first time and they’re making those first-time mistakes. They’re making penalties, we’re putting the ball on the ground and that’s stuff that we’re not good enough to make those kind of mistakes,” Raso said


“We want to be able to play four quarters and we haven’t been able to do that yet. So, it will continue to be a learning process and hopefully, we can just get better and better. It’s frustrating when we’re making the same mistakes and it’s tough,” Raso said.


This week, Hammonton faces another high-ranked team when it travels to Millville on October 8 at 6 p.m.


“It doesn’t get any easier, if we can keep it together, you never know what might happen. And maybe we can finish out the year on a good note with those last two games and then whatever, a consolation or a playoff game,” Raso said.