Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 22
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
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BLUE RIDGE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse star Robby Dowers clears the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, Dowers and his teammates fought valiantly as the seventh-seeded Little Tigers fell 10-5 to No. 2 Ridge in the Group III state quarterfinals. PHS, 14-5-1, was slated to end its season with a make-up game against Allentown on May 31.

Senior Star Dowers Leads Fight to the End As PHS Boys’ Lax Falls in State Quarters

Bill Alden

After the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team tied Robbinsville 8-8 in mid-April to move to 1-3-1, senior defenseman Robby Dowers and his co-captains decided it was time to clear the air.

“We felt we should not have tied that game,” recalled Dowers. “Griffin Peck, Michael Irving, and I called a team meeting and we said we need to get our stuff together and play lacrosse like we should be playing. We just came out everyday in practice after that and everyone worked hard.”

That hard work paid dividends as PHS won 13 of its next 14 games, carrying the seventh-seeded Little Tigers into the Group III state quarterfinals at No. 2 Ridge last Thursday.

Coming into the clash against the high-powered Red Devils, the defending Group III state champs, PHS knew that it couldn’t dig a big early hole. With a well-prepared Dowers and his colleagues on defense containing Ridge stars Connor Meth and Kevin Kelly, the Little Tigers jumped out to a 2-1 lead and trailed just 4-2 at halftime.

“We were playing good defense; I liked the way we came out,” said Dowers, reflecting on PHS’s first half performance.

“Coach Casto [PHS assistant coach Chip Casto] went up and scouted their game against Ramapo. We watched the film of it. No. 4 [Meth] had a highlight film on You Tube and I watched that. I looked at all of his stats and I saw what he liked to do.”

In the third quarter, though, the game got away from PHS as the Red Devils outscored the Little Tigers 4-3 and never looked back on the way to a 10-5 win.

“I got called for two penalties; I thought they were questionable calls and that hurt us a little bit,” said the rugged Dowers.

“They are just a good team defensively; our offense was trying its best. Their offense was holding the ball for a long time; they were having long possessions.”

The battle-tested PHS defense held the fort, fighting hard to the end. “We didn’t graduate a single long pole so we knew our defense was going to be stronger than the offense in the beginning of the year,” said Dowers.

“Griffin Peck said it the best — last year we were trying to be the reason not to lose games and this year we were trying to be the reason we won games.”

In the view of PHS head coach Peter Stanton, his seniors were a big reason behind the team’s late surge.

“Our captains were fantastic,” said Stanton, whose team dropped to 14-5-1 with the loss to Ridge and was slated to complete the season with a make-up game against Allentown on May 31.

“Robby Dowers, Michael Irving, and Griffin Peck were really great leaders; they set the example everyday.”

Stanton is proud of the way his players followed the example set by the captains.

“I have had the opportunity to coach 16 really fine teams at Princeton High School and this team is certainly one of the ones I will remember the most for the amount of growth they have undergone over the course of one year,” asserted Stanton.

“It is remarkable the amount they improved during the season. It’s one thing when a team comes in as freshmen and you see them get better and better each year. These guys did it within one season as seniors. It’s rare when you see boys at that age commit to what it takes to improve that quickly.”

The team’s commitment was shown to the final whistle last Thursday. “We went down swinging,” said Stanton, who got two goals from senior midfield Mike Hellstern in the defeat with Kirby Peck, Basel Hashem, and Zach Halliday chipping in one apiece.

“At the end of the game we could have said. ‘alright let’s just pack it in and keep the score close.’ We felt like let’s fight away and let’s try to win this game.”

Dowers and his classmates weren’t about to stop playing hard. “We have 11 or 12 seniors and we are close,” said Dowers. “We all hang out; we have a lot of good team chemistry. We are all leaders in our own way.”

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