Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 47
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton High junior running back Josh Gordon races for a touchdown in action earlier this season. Last Saturday, Gordon rushed for 139 yards but it wasn’t enough as PHS fell 38-18 to visiting Hamilton in an NJSIAA consolation contest. Gordon ended the season with 991 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

PHS Football Falls to Hamilton in Finale; but Foundation in Place for Future Success

Bill Alden

Princeton High quarterback Connor Ryan embraced head coach Steve Everette for several moments after PHS wrapped up its season last Saturday.

Unfortunately, it was not a hug of joy as PHS fell 38-18 to visiting Hamilton in an NJSIAA consolation contest.

Instead, the emotional moment between quarterback and coach was triggered by a sense of shared sacrifice in the joint effort to help make the Little Tiger program something special.

“They were the first class who had to deal with expectations and they didn’t do a bad job of it,” said Everette, reflecting on his group of seniors.

“They fell a little bit short but I tell you what, guys like Tommy Hines, Joey Giacalone, Connor Ryan, and Brandon Merrill, dedicated themselves. They set the standard for what it takes to be a pretty good football team with 6 o’clock in the morning workouts, being here all summer and sacrificing vacations. They have set the standard for what is expected of our team.”

The Little Tigers fell short of expectations in the loss to Hamilton. Looking sluggish, the Little Tigers fell behind 17-0 by the end of the first quarter.

PHS rallied for two touchdowns in the second quarter as Mike Olentine hit Merrill with a 14-yard scoring strike and junior Trevor Barsamian bulled in for a one-yard touchdown run.

The Little Tigers, though, were unable to build on that momentum as Hamilton scored on a 61-yard pass on its second play of the second half to go up 24-12. The Hornets extended the lead to 31-12 with 7:20 remaining in the quarter.

PHS answered back with a 45-yard touchdown jaunt by junior running back Josh Gordon to narrow the gap to 31-18. Hamilton tacked on a touchdown in the waning seconds of the the third quarter and neither team scored in the final 12 minutes.

Everette acknowledged that his players lacked some emotional fire at the outset of the game.

“It took us a little while to get going because the kids were disappointed that we weren’t a playoff team,” said Everette, who got 139 yards rushing from junior star Gordon last Saturday as his team finished with a 5-5 record.

“But you’ve got to like the fight of our kids. We came out in the second half and we narrowed that thing down. It looks like we are going to go in and then we blow a coverage.”

While the PHS players and coaches were unhappy that they fell short of a second straight trip to the NJSIAA playoffs, Everette was able to put the program’s progress in perspective.

“We knew there were some great expectations put on us in the beginning of the year and we fell short of it,” said Everette, whose team won five straight games after an opening day loss to Nottingham.

“We had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and we didn’t do it. But you know what, it is nice though because after seven years of hard work, coming down the stretch, we are playing for a playoff spot. It’s no more maybe we will get one win, two wins. We were right there in the mix of things.”

Boasting a strong group of juniors, PHS should continue to be in the playoff mix.

“With 20-something juniors coming back, I think people better watch out,” asserted Everette. “This PHS football team is going to be something to reckon with for a while. We are going to lick our wounds and go back to work in 10 days.”

And when the returners convene in the PHS fitness center for their offseason training, the disappointment of what might have been this fall should give them extra incentive as they pump iron.

“When you have the opportunity to go put yourself in a position to be a great team, don’t blow the opportunity,” said Everette. “I don’t think that we will. I promise you we will come out a much hungrier team next year.”

Those players have a support system in place to help them reach their potential.

“Our families are starting to understand what it takes to be that top-notch program,” said Everette.

“The families are willing to allow the kids to sacrifice themselves so now it is going to be on us as coaches to go out and coach the best football that we can and get our kids in shape for next year.”

Everette, for his part, is not going to leave any stone unturned in his quest to get the best out of his players.

“I am going to coach harder, if you can believe that,” vowed Everette.

“I am going to coach like a maniac. I am going to coach harder and work harder than I ever have because I firmly believe that PHS can be one of the top teams not just in Mercer County but in our state. We have the tools to go there; we have the resources to go there. We have a community that is backing us, we are going to get after it.”

And if that work comes to fruition, Everette and his players will be having hugs of joy next November.

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