Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

NO ORDINARY JOE: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse attacker Joe Sandford gets ready to shoot on his way to six goals last Saturday as fourth-seeded PHS topped No. 5 Northern Burlington 17-5 in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals. Sandford and his teammates weren’t quite as prolific last Monday as they fell 10-9 to Notre Dame in the MCT semis.

With Sandford Emerging as Secret Weapon, PHS Boys’ Lax Primed for State Tournament

Bill Alden

Joe Sandford gets overshadowed at times in his role as senior attacker for the high-powered Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team.

Flashy attackers Mike Olentine and Doug Bryant have put up big numbers over the last two years and justifiably draw plenty of attention from PHS’s foes.

Athletic midfielder Allen Bryant turns heads with his domination in the face-off circle and his mad dashes to goal.

The workmanlike and savvy Sandford, though, has been front and center this spring as the Little Tigers have emerged as one of the top teams in the area.

In a 17-5 win over Northern Burlington in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals last Saturday, Sandford fired in six goals.

Sandford doesn’t mind being the quiet man of the PHS offense as his more heralded teammates draw headlines. “They definitely get the attention and that is good for me,” said Sandford, who didn’t have a good time last Monday as fourth-seeded PHS fell 10-9 to No. 1 Notre Dame in the MCT semifinals.

“I get to play a smaller role and not have the teams focus around me and then come out in the games and do a lot.”

Bringing a lot of knowledge to the field has helped Sandford become a force for the 13-4 Little Tigers. “We have the new coach Casto (assistant coach Chip Casto) coming in and he changes the offense around a lot and just studying that really helped me out to know the things going on around me,” explained Sandford.

“I don’t just focus on what I am supposed to be doing; I know what everyone is supposed to be doing and it gives me more opportunities to be open and make more plays for the team.”

With PHS having won 10 straight games before the loss to Notre Dame last Monday, Sandford thinks the team has what it takes to go far in the upcoming state tournament.

“We had goals coming into the season in the beginning and then we thought maybe we should shift our focus,” said Sandford. “We came out and now that we are on a roll, we think that our goal for a championship is possible if we work hard and keep playing as a team and listening to the coaches.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton believes that some big things are possible for his squad if it keeps up the good work.

“I am not sure if I have ever coached a team that has improved this late in the season,” asserted Stanton. “A lot of teams are going to peak out and that is as good as you are going to get. We feel that this group can continue getting better.”

Stanton points to a 13-12 loss to perennial state Prep champion Lawrenceville in mid-April as a pivotal moment of the season.

“We think that the turning point was the Lawrenceville game,” said Stanton. “In all of our games up to that point, we got off slowly. We struggled, we were nervous and jerky. The Lawrenceville game was the first game where we just broke it down and said this is what we want to do and we did it. It is the first game where we started playing well. We were happy with how we played the game that day.”

In Stanton’s view, Sandford has certainly been showing some good game. “He brings a lot of spirit to our team, mentally his mind is always in the game,” said Stanton.

“A lot of guys sort of know their job but Joe knows what the team purpose is. He knows what the whole team is supposed to be doing. He brings a ton of awareness. He really helps us out that way in addition to what he does individually; he is just a solid team player.”

PHS has benefitted from solid defensive play courtesy of some unsung heroes.

“The goal scorers get the attention but the real story is defense,” said Stanton.

“We lost Jay Dwyer at the beginning of the year and now we have lost Michael Irving and Tom Sacchetti and in steps Dean DiTosto and Jack Miller. Dean started playing lacrosse when he was in ninth grade and his learning curve is unbelievable. Jack has never been able to put together a full season with injuries. I would say those two have made a difference.”

The play of junior goalie Griffin Peck has also made a big difference for the Little Tigers.

“There is so much more to the goalie position than stopping the ball,” added Stanton, whose team hosts Hightstown on May 17. “The clearing and quarterbacking the defense are also key. Griffin is putting more time into the preparation; he’s watching tape and film. His hard work is paying off.”

Sandford and his classmates are working hard to make their final PHS campaign special.

“A lot of us aren’t going on to play next year at college,” said Sandford.

“We all have a close bond on the field and we want to make the most of this year. We are playing for each other because we know this is our last year playing with each other. We want to do well for everyone.”

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