Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 46
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
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GOOD RIDE: Princeton High senior running back Luke LaVoie, known as “the Cowboy” by his teammates, runs to daylight in action earlier this fall. LaVoie helped PHS go 5-5 this fall as they qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 1993.

PHS Football Falls to Long Branch but Learned From Playoff Experience

Bill Alden

Steve Everette was bursting with pride as he watched his Princeton High football team warm up for its Central Jersey Group III quarterfinal game against Long Branch.

“It was an absolutely electric moment,” said PHS head coach Everette, reflecting on the program’s first playoff appearance since 1993.

“It was the first time we were playing a meaningful game at this time of the season. The kids put in a lot of hard work; from the beginning of the season, they expected to be here.”

The seventh-seeded Little Tigers showed plenty of fight once they were there, driving deep into the territory of No. 2 Long Branch three times in the first half. Unfortunately, PHS had only three points to show for their offensive effort.

Meanwhile, Long Branch scored after a blocked punt and ended the half with a 61-yard scoring march to take a 19-3 lead into intermission in the game which was played at Matawan High.

In the second half, the Little Tigers could only make it into the red zone once as Long Branch utilized its superb rushing attack to grind out three more scores on the way to a 38-3 win.

Everette acknowledged that his club was ultimately overwhelmed by the Green Wave.

“We played a dynamic team in Long Branch,” said Everette, whose team was outgained 244 yards to 26 on the ground as it ended the season with a 5-5 record.

“They had athletes all over the place. Their running back [Travis Patterson] broke tackles and made great cuts. Their offensive line was absolutely fantastic.”

With PHS star running back Doug Borchert getting held to 28 yards, the Little Tigers went to the air with some success. Junior quarterback Connor Ryan hit on 11-of-25 passes for 126 yards with D’quan Holman making six receptions for 71 yards.

“I think Connor finally understands what it’s going to take to be a great quarterback,” said Everette in assessing Ryan’s performance. “I think he can be one of the best in our area next season.”

The experience of competing against a team like Long Branch in a playoff situation should fuel the motivation of the PHS players to take the next step.

“They saw that hard work can get you there but they know they need to work even harder to do well in the playoffs,” said Everette. “We need to get stronger, get faster.”

The need to be more diligent extends to the coaching staff. “We need to work harder as coaches,” added Everette. “We worked to improve our offensive and defensive fronts. Now we need to upgrade our skill players.”

Everette points to critical losses this fall to Hightstown and Notre Dame as important lessons for the players and coaches.

“I think about the Hightstown game, there was an opportunity and I have to have the team prepared to perform,” acknowledged Everette.

“The Notre Dame game was incredibly big; a win in that one would have helped our power points and we wouldn’t have been worried about making the playoffs. We would have been looking at a home game and not an hour and 15 minute bus ride.”

It was a special ride for the PHS senior class which included Matt Abrams, Steven Barsamian, Larry Berry, Tausif Billah, Alex Bozich, Joey Cifelli, Joe D’Eramo, David Griffin, Luke LaVoie, John Miranda, Peter Murphy, Jordan Simpson, and Matt Young in addition to Borchert.

“Their legacy gets cemented,” said Everette. “They get a division title and they get to raise a banner. They get into the playoffs and we were a solid seven seed. The kids left behind will want to do even better.”

Everette, for his part, believes that the classes that have gone through the program in recent years have served to inspire the players that follow in their footsteps.

“Part of a program is having the alums coming back and being around it,” said Everette.

“Vinny Giacalone comes back and helps us with our 7-on-7 program last summer. Vance Johnson comes back and helps the receivers learn their routes. T.R. Johnson helps the linemen. Once a Little Tiger, always a Little Tiger.”

With that kind of continuity in place, PHS appears headed for some more proud moments in the future.

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