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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
RECORD TIME: Princeton High football star Eric Shorter heads up the field in recent action. Last Saturday, senior Shorter ended his PHS career with a bang, making five catches for 175 yards and two TDs and a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown as PHS fell 47-28 to Ocean Township in an NJSIAA consolation contest. Shorter made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns this fall as PHS went 3-7. His receiving yardage total is believed to be a program record and may be the second highest total in county history.

PHS Football Shows Toughness to the End; Battling Hard in Consolation Loss to Ocean

Bill Alden


When the Princeton High football team fell behind Ocean Township 14-0 last Saturday in an NJSIAA consolation contest, it would have been easy for PHS to go quietly into the off season.

Instead, the Little Tigers made some noise, reeling off two straight touchdowns. Even though Ocean tacked on a touchdown late in the quarter, PHS head coach Joe Gargione wasn’t fazed by the 20-13 halftime deficit.

“We went down 14-0 quickly; they were moving up and down the field and doing what they needed to do,” said Gargione.

“We came right back and made it 14-13. We told the guys at half that we were only down by seven; we have been in this situation before. We made some adjustments offensively.”

In its opening possession of the third quarter, those adjustments were working as PHS drove deep in Ocean territory only to see disaster strike.

“We are moving in for a score, they blitz up the middle and we throw an interception and they return it 90 yards for a TD,” recalled Gargione. “That was a 14-point swing right there.”

Still, the Little Tigers kept moving forward. “We played well offensively; we scored a touchdown in third and a touchdown in fourth,” said Gargione.

“Alex Mitko threw the long ball well; he had 285 yards passing on nine completions. He had two long touchdown passes to Eric [Shorter] and one touchdown to Liam Helstrom, which was great since he is a sophomore and it was his first varsity TD. It was our second straight game with 28 points and fourth game this season with at least 20 points.”

While PHS ended up losing 47-28 to end the fall at 3-7, Gargione was encouraged by how far the program came this season as it rebounded from a 0-10 campaign in 2010.

“A record of 3-7 may not look good but considering what we did last year and how close we were in other games this year, it was a good season,” said Gargione, whose club lost three games by a combined total of 11 points.

“I am proud of the boys; they kept progressing and played hard in all 10 games. With a few plays here or there, we could have been a 6-4 team.”

Gargione credits his crew of 15 seniors for setting the tone that led to the program’s progress.

“They are a solid group; they gave us a lot, especially in the offseason,” said Gargione.

“They showed leadership; they were always visible in the weight room. That work was the biggest reason why we played better and were able to limit injuries. They stuck together. They are friends and are always there for each other. I will miss every one of them.”

One of the seniors PHS will miss the most is record-breaking receiver Eric Shorter. Saving his best for last, Shorter produced one of the best seasons in PHS football history as he made 49 catches for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Eric is a dynamic player; he is explosive with his jumping and running,” said Gargione of Shorter, who ended his Little Tiger career with a bang last Saturday with five catches for 175 yards and two TDs and a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“It is great to have a player with tools like that, you can get him the long ball. He had 1,052 yards receiving which we believe is a program record and may be the second highest total in county history. He will be playing at the next level.”

Quarterback Alex Mitko showed courage and skill as he played through a broken thumb.

“Alex is a special player; he brings it on every play,” said Gargione. “He has an exceptionally strong arm for a guy his size. He can sprint out and throw it on the run. He can also throw it down the field. One of his touchdown passes Saturday was a 50-yard spiral to Eric.”

The senior linemen provided a strong foundation for the Little Tigers. “We had Jeff Barsamian at center for two straight years,” added Gargione. “Fernando Silva was at tackle with Andrew Wenzler and Nick Gillette playing guard. They did a good job for us.”

In Gargione’s view, there are good things on the
horizon for the program. “We have lots of juniors who started this season,” said Gargione.

“They know the importance of working hard in the offseason; I will be on them to work even harder this year. We are losing 15 seniors, that will be tough to replace. The kids showed this year that they are tough.”

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