Spring Grove running back Jeff Delaughter takes a hand-off during practice at the school on Wednesday. Delaughter has rushed for 2,432 yards in his career,
Spring Grove running back Jeff Delaughter takes a hand-off during practice at the school on Wednesday. Delaughter has rushed for 2,432 yards in his career, putting him close to the school's all-time record. (BILL KALINA -- bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)

Before he goes to school each day, Spring Grove's Jeff Delaughter goes to work.

The Rockets' star running back is up before dawn and off to his cooperative job working for a contractor in Hanover.

"I get up around 4:45 every day, and I get to work at 5:30," Delaughter said following Spring Grove football practice on Wednesday evening. "I work until 9:30 until I come to school."

Work, school and football practice pretty much consume Delaughter's day. Of course, getting up at 4:45 means getting to bed early.

"Some nights, I go to bed at 8:45," he said. "A night like tonight (evening practice), I'll go to bed at 9:30. I like working where I do. I'm hoping to be a mechanic some day, but I'm not sure what kind."

Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner makes a point during practice on Wednesday. The Rockets will host Kennard-Dale on Friday.
Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner makes a point during practice on Wednesday. The Rockets will host Kennard-Dale on Friday. (BILL KALINA -- bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)

Spring Grove head coach Russ Stoner said Delaughter's blue-collar work ethic is just as strong on the field as it is off the field.

"Effort and focus are two words I've never had to use with Jeff Delaughter," Stoner said. "The thing with Jeff is that as the game progresses, he gets stronger. In many ways, Jeff is pretty much the same kid who started with us two years ago. Except he's a little bit older, a little bit stronger and faster."

Delaughter, a 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound senior, has rushed for 2,432 yards in his career (5.2 average) which, according to York Dispatch records, places him second on the school's all-time list to Scott Wakeland. Wakeland compiled 2,565 rushing yards in the late 1970s.

"I just run the ball and try to find someone to hit because I don't play defense that much," he said.

Asked if there are any runs that stick out in his memory more than others, Delaughter mentioned an 80-yard run against Susquehanna Township and a 90-yard run against Dallastown.

Delaughter hasn't racked up all the yards without getting some help. The linemen and other backs have supplied key blocks along the way.

Delaughter was quick to give a shout out to the offensive line after he rushed for 234 yards last year against York High.

Special year in 2012: The 2012 season was a special one for Spring Grove, which was coming off a 1-9 finish in 2011.

The Rockets rebounded with an 8-4 season and a share of the York-Adams Division I title with Central. The success didn't go unnoticed. Opponents won't forget to bring their "A" games when taking on Spring Grove this season.

"It put a target on us, but I'm confident in my ability, confident in my coaches' ability, confident in the kids' ability," Stoner said. "I have a saying, 'practice like we're in second (place). Play like we're in first.'"

Stoner is expecting a challenge from Kennard-Dale when the Rams come to Papermakers' Stadium on Friday night. K-D snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 27-20 victory over East Pennsboro last week.

"They're huge, and they'll ball control you to death running that Power I," Stoner said. "Their running back (Mike Young) is one tough son of a gun."

Rockets' defense excels: Spring Grove's defense, which used a goal-line stand to hold off West York, 10-6, last week, will aim this week to control K-D's running game.

"That was a big stand, it showed what our defense was all about," Rockets' defensive lineman De' Andre Gaskins said. "I feel we have a great defense this year. We have the secondary, linebackers and the guys up front."

Gaskins, a 5-11, 215-pound senior, plays alongside David Shaw, a 6-5, 280-pound senior who earned an NCAA Division I scholarship to Maryland. Shaw's brothers, Jim and John, both played at Spring Grove and at Penn State.

"It's a very great experience to play with someone who's a D-I athlete," Gaskins said.

Gaskins seconded Stoner's sentiment that Spring Grove is wearing a target this season.

"Last year was our coming-out season," Gaskins said. "This year, we feel like everyone is coming after us."

Spring Grove, which has 18 seniors on its roster, is setting its sights high this year.

"We shared the division with Central last year, but this year, we want to try and get it by ourselves," Delaughter said. "We also want to try and get up to Hershey and play in that stadium (in the District 3 playoffs)."

Kicker excelling: Spring Grove kicker Andrew Luckenbaugh is off to another tremendous start this year.

Luckenbaugh, who connected on 10-of-11 field goal attempts last year, including a school-record 47-yarder, is 5-of-5 this year. Luckenbaugh is a sophomore.

-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin da@yorkdispatch.com.