University of Delaware wide receiver Tommy Crosby doesn't want to let another shot at a national title slip away tonight.

The Hammonton High School graduate is one of three local football players leading the Blue Hens' offense into the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision championship game against Eastern Washington.

The senior knows what it's like to play for a title. The Sicklerville resident, who finished the season with 38 catches for 461 yards and two touchdowns, was a freshman on the 2007 Blue Hens team that made it to the finals but lost 49-27 to Appalachian State.

"I tell the younger guys there's only two teams left right now," Crosby said. "There are about 118 teams in Division I-AA and there's two left. I tell them, 'Don't let it slip or get by you.' In '07 we let it slip. This year I want to win a championship, and I think the younger players are on board to do the same."

Junior wide receiver Mark Schenauer (Absegami High School) and freshman running back Andrew Pierce (Cumberland Regional) are the other area players who have played key roles leading Delaware to the title game in Frisco, Texas.

Pierce, the team's leading rusher with 1,513 yards and 13 touchdowns, noticed Crosby and the other seniors' work ethic. He said that the leaders on the team have taken him under his wing this year, and it adds extra motivation.

"For those guys, not winning in 2007, it took them a long time to get back here." said Pierce, who's from Bridgeton. "I just want to do whatever it takes to send them off right and just have a great game for them. They've been through so much and worked so hard."

The holiday season gave Delaware extra time to prepare for the championship. They haven't played a game since Dec. 18 when they defeated Georgia Southern 27-10 in the national semifinals.

But rather than be worried about rust, the players say the layoff has been beneficial, allowing banged-up bodies to get rest and healthy, and exhausted minds chances to study game film and prepare.

Crosby especially took advantage of the break. He was taken off the field in a stretcher in the third quarter of the semifinal game against Georgia Southern after a blow to the head. The wide receiver spent a night in the hospital with a concussion, but has been cleared to play tonight.

Schenauer, an Absegami High School graduate from Galloway Township, finished with 34 receptions and 492 yards for three touchdowns. He said that the team took a few days off over the break, but has been practicing almost nonstop since Dec. 29, even after landing in Texas on Tuesday.

"They gave us a few days off for down time." Schenauer said. "We've been practicing and watching film ever since. But now we're getting tired of watching film, we want to get out there and play."

Each player said that family and friends have made the trip from home to watch the game, and students have shown up as well. Pierce said the atmosphere has been unbelievable since the moment he stepped off the plane. After arriving at the hotel there were fans waiting and cheering.

It would be easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that there is still a game to play, but Crosby said what sets this team apart is knowing when it's time to get serious.

"We practiced hard when we got here." Crosby said. "(We've been) preparing mentally. Making sure we're all ready. Staying focused. Having fun when it's time to have fun, but being focused when it's time to focus."

Contact Jeff Sporer:

609-272-7210