Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 21
 
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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FAMILY MATTERS: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse senior star Doug Bryant heads to goal in recent action. Last Saturday, Bryant and twin bother, Allen, helped trigger the PHS offense as the top-seeded Little Tigers rolled past No. 5 Ramapo 19-8 in the Group II state semifinals. Doug scored three goals in the win while Allen had five.

With the Bryant Twins Leading the Charge, PHS Boys’ Lax Rolls Into State Title Game

Bill Alden

When Doug Bryant and his classmates arrived on the scene for the Princeton high boys’ lacrosse team as freshmen four seasons ago, there was a sense that they could make a big impact on the program.

“Ever since we were freshmen we knew our senior year was going to be big,” said senior attacker Bryant.

“We all planned it. We were playing in the summer and playing in the winter leagues. We were always preparing for this senior year.”

Last Saturday, the PHS seniors made their last home appearance at one of the biggest games in program history as the Little Tigers hosted Ramapo in the Group II state semifinals.

Living up to its No. 1 seed, PHS rolled to a 19-8 win over the visiting Raiders, the tournament’s fifth-seeded team.

By virtue of the victory, PHS, now 17-4 on the season, will face No. 7 Mendham on May 26 in the state title game at the Ridge High School.

As the Little Tigers hit the field on Saturday they were primed to set the tone.

“We all were very energetic going in,” said Bryant. “We had a pasta dinner last night and it was a great time. Everyone was really excited and happy to be in this game and it is definitely going to carry on to the next game.”

In Bryant’s view, PHS’s recent loss to Notre dame in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals helped the Little tigers deal with rugged Ramapo.

“We knew Ramapo was a good team,” said Bryant. “They played a tough schedule and they had some tough kids; they are actually very similar to Notre Dame. They are a tough team and they come out and get you and pressure you. We do a good job of running around pressure, keeping our cool and keeping our heads in the game.”

In the early going last Saturday, it was Doug’s twin brother, Allen, who ran through the Ramapo defense, scoring PHS’s first five goals.

“We had Allen score a few goals; it was the Allen Bryant show in the beginning,” said a grinning Bryant. “Later on, we had people stepping up like Pat Lynch and Mike Hellstern.”

Bryant also found the range, ending up with three goals on the afternoon. “I hit a couple of shots that were good,” said Bryant. “I drove once and the goalie saved it and it was a big momentum killer for me but then I hit the next shot and I got in my groove.”

There is no question that the Bryant twins have found a nice groove for PHS.

“I always have a sense of where he is,” said Bryant, who recently joined Allen in PHS’s 100-goal club.

“We’re always shooting in the back yard so I always know where he likes to shoot. If I dodge, he is always the one I look to first. There is that twin chemistry, it is nice.”

PHS head coach Peter Stanton certainly thought it was nice to see Allen Bryant’s early outburst against Ramapo.

“It’s really great to have Allen Bryant on our team,” said Stanton. “He was so determined to play in his last home game and leave the field with a win. It was scary, seeing him getting the first four goals so quickly. He’s amazing.”

Stanton knows that he has amazing offensive balance with the Bryant twins, Mike Olentine, and Joe Sandford.

“We are pretty spoiled with Doug, Allen, Mike, and Joe Sandford,” said Stanton who got five goals apiece from Allen Bryant and Olentine in the win over Ramapo with Sanford chipping four goals. “With the four of those guys, every time out they can score in bunches.”

The Little Tigers needed to score in bunches to hold off a determined Ramapo squad that scored three straight goals in the third quarter to cut the PHS lead to 13-8.

“That’s why Ramapo made it into the state semis, they battled back,” said Stanton, whose team reeled off six unanswered goals to end the game. “We said at half when it was 10-4 that they would fight back even though it was an uphill battle.”

By winning that battle, PHS put itself in a position to fight for the program’s first-ever state title.

“It’s exciting; this is the first Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team that has played for a state championship,” said Stanton. “These guys are determined and they have a strong belief.”

Stanton certainly has a strong belief in his players’ chances to make history.

“With this group of boys, we have been grooming them for the last two years, talking about the 2000 and 2006 teams and some of the great players that we had,” said Stanton.

“Their dream is that in years to come we will be talking about them. We are at that point. They have already achieved great things and hopefully they can win that state title.”

The Little Tigers know they face a great challenge in Mendham.

“They knocked us out of the states last year; they are going to want to win just as badly as we do,” said Stanton.

“They will be confident. They play with poise and precision; they will have a plan and they will stick to it.”

In Stanton’s view, his team will have to adapt in order to defeat that plan. “We think that people will try to scheme for Allen and Mike,” added Stanton.

“They might be able to slow them down so we are going to need guys like Mike Hellstern, Pat Lynch, and Will Kister to step up. We need contributions from those guys.”

Bryant, for his part, believes the PHS players will step up collectively with a state title on the line.

“I believe no other Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team has made it to the finals so it is huge,” said Bryant.

“I am really excited right now. The excitement is going to be there through Wednesday. People are going to be willing to go to bed early, get their rest, heal up and take it very seriously.”

For Bryant and his classmates, taking things seriously over the last four years could end up producing the most exciting ending in program history.

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