Many spring football leagues across the county have already begun their 2016 regular season and on Saturday, the North East Atlantic Football League kicks off as the Delaware County Cowboys travel to play the Wilmington Wolfpack.
Last season the Cowboys finished 7-4 and won two playoff games before falling short in the conference championship game. This year, Delco is geared up and primed to make a run at the NEAFL title, which they won two seasons ago.
“This is supposed to be the finale right now,” Cowboys head coach Marcus Brunswick told DFUSA. “This is the year. The guys that we’ve come up with since they were 18, 19 years old are ready to move on with family and work are saying this is it, so we’re trying to go out with glory.
“I’ve picked up talent all across the board. This is championship or bust. If we don’t win, it was a coaching issue and not a player issue.”
Offensively, the Cowboys are expecting another big season out of 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back Jim Profit.
“I’ve been blessed enough to have probably one of the best running backs in semipro,” Brunswick said. “That’s since I was playing and the eight years I’ve been coaching. He was kind of one of those guys that could make something out of nothing. A little short, white guy, not real fast, but he finds a way to get it done.”
In the passing game, Delco will rely on 6-foot-2, 200-pound wideout Lamar Shaw.
“I don’t know how he didn’t make it into the college level,” Brunswick said. “He’s as athletic as you could imagine. I’m talking about a wide receiver I could put at nose tackle that could make a difference.”
An advantage the Cowboys will have over several teams is the fact that the core of their team has been around for a while and grown together.
“I’ve kept the same core group of guys throughout the years,” Brunswick said. “For the most part, I’ve had the same group of guys for the last six or seven years. I’ve been coaching the same guys over and over that understand the offense and the defense. I’ve got probably 54 players on the roster and it’s hard to coach that many players, but what helps me is the guys that have been around for six or seven years to help the new guys.”
Defensively the Cowboys will rely on former Wesley College Wolverine, linebacker Steve Manerchia.
“He holds down the fort,” Brunswick said. “When we won the ship in 2014, he was actually the league MVP. He’s a baller and just a great guy in life, period. I want to be revered as he is. Everybody likes him, but he’s nasty on the field.”
The Cowboys have had a hard-nosed defense in recent years, running a 5-3 with gap control up front and man to man behind.
“We’ve went to the last four or five conference championship games and we won the whole ship in 2014,” Brunswick said. “I attribute a lot of the success to those guys and a lot of role players that have helped out also.”
While Delco has its sights set on another NEAFL title, there are a few teams standing between them and another title that could have something to say about that.
“One team in particular that beat us last year in the conference championship, I think they beat us the last two times we lost, from Jackson, New Jersey, called the Pitbulls,” Brunswick said. “That’s been kind of a thorn in our heel. Then the team that won the team last year is a team out of Baltimore called the Bills.
“They breed a lot of football down there. You get to Maryland and Virginia and a lot of teams are stacked all across the board. They won the chip last year, they are definitely one of the teams that are on our radar.”