Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 42
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
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JOSHING AROUND: Princeton High junior running back Josh Gordon bolts around defenders last Saturday in PHS’ 12-16 win over Steinert. Gordon scored all three Little Tiger touchdowns on the day as he rushed 106 yards and caught three passes for 59 yards. It was the fourth straight win for PHS, which is now 4-1. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they play at Hopewell Valley on October 18.

With QB Ryan Keeping Cool and Firing Away, PHS Football Tops Steinert With Stunning Rally

Bill Alden

Connor Ryan was starting to think that things weren’t going to fall in place for the Princeton High football team.

Although the senior quarterback had hit on several big passes as PHS battled visiting Steinert last Saturday, he had also thrown two interceptions which had helped put the Little Tigers in a 16-7 hole with 6:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“Of course we were getting frustrated,” said Ryan. “I threw two bad passes that ended up in interceptions.”

Over the final minutes of the contest, Ryan turned that frustration into a personal highlight film as he engineered a stunning comeback.

Connecting on key throws to Nick Miranda, Doug Bryant, and Skye Ettin, Ryan led PHS on an 80-yard scoring march that culminated with a 31-yard scoring strike to Josh Gordon on a swing pass as the Little Tigers closed the gap to 16-14.

After the PHS defense forced a three and out, Ryan and the Tigers took over on their own 22-yard line with 2:53 remaining. Ryan kept up his hot hand, finding Miranda, Bryant, and Gordon for critical completions as the Little Tigers drove to the Steinert 11 with 1:36 remaining.

Gordon closed the deal, scampering 11 yards for a touchdown as PHS forged ahead 21-16 with 1:12 left in regulation. The Spartans, though, kept fighting, driving to the PHS 29.

The Little Tigers came up with one last big play as Ettin made an interception with 21 seconds to clinch the win and take their fourth straight victory as they improved to 4-1.

Reflecting on the final scoring drive, Ryan said there was a sense of confidence in the PHS huddle.

“We’ve got to work, we got to go hard to get the TD, that was what we were saying” recalled Ryan, who ended the day hitting on 14-of-30 passes for 267 yards. “Our mind was set on the end zone and we got it.”

Early in the game, PHS couldn’t get out of its way, let alone get in the end zone. Plagued by penalties and missed blocks, the Little Tigers trailed 10-0 heading into the waning minutes of the second quarter.

Seeking to change the momentum, Ryan and PHS decided it was time to go to Plan B and air things out.

“This team put nine guys in the box and we knew the game couldn’t be won by running like we have historically won games in the past,” said Ryan. “We had to look to the passing game so we just started passing a lot.”

Ryan proceeded to complete three passes for 61 yards as PHS marched inside the Steinert five. Gordon scored on a five-yard run to make it 10-7 and give the Little Tigers a dose of momentum.

“In the first half, we were all not in our rhythm,” said Ryan. “At the end of the first half, the whole team got into its rhythm.”

Ryan’s connection with wide receiver Bryant helped PHS maintain that rhythm in the second half.

“Doug is my same age; I grew up with him,” said Ryan of Bryant who had seven catches for 97 yards.

“We played in Pop Warner together since 6th grade; throwing to him all these years has developed a connection. He is a heck of a receiver, he makes me look good.”

Ryan readily admitted that Gordon is the team’s main security blanket.

“Josh makes everybody look good; he makes the guys in the stands look good,” said Ryan with a laugh.

“He’s absolutely incredible; he’s fantastic. I know I can count on him when I give him the ball; I know he’ll go and make a play.”

PHS head coach Steve Everette, for his part, was not surprised that Ryan persevered to make the big plays at the end of the game for the Little Tigers.

“We have been waiting for Connor to gain his confidence and be able to throw the ball around and have confidence in his ability and the receivers,” asserted Everette.

“Today you saw him not fall apart and not cave in to the pressure; he made a ton of good throws. That will be something we will continue to build on.”

With running back Trevor Barsamian struggling with turf toe and the Steinert defense keying on Gordon, it was imperative that Ryan find the range.

“Everybody wants to stop our running game,” said Everette. “When they do that, we have to take advantage of it. We have talented receivers and talented QBs. Today Connor got really hot and the receivers did a heckuva job of going up and getting the ball.”

The PHS defense did a great job of getting the ball back as it stymied Steinert for most of the second half.

“Our defensive coordinator (Scott Goldsmith) dialed up a great second half,” added Everette “The kids made some stops when we needed to make some stops and then we went and drove the ball. It was a total team effort.”

While the PHS team lived up to Everette’s “we not me” philosophy, the individual brilliance of Gordon made a huge difference.

“Joshua is starting to come into his own; we knew we had a pretty talented kid,” said Everette of his junior running back who rushed for 106 yards and made three catches for 59 yards.

“Today we had to rely on him a little bit because Trevor was a little banged up. Josh was able to come through with some very big plays. On the swing pass he caught, he came over to the sidelines and said ‘coach they aren’t covering the swing, let’s throw the swing.’ That was him, not only being a good player but being a smart player. We were able to come and throw the swing and he went out and made a play.”

The Little Tigers have been making a lot of big plays since absorbing a 29-3 loss to Nottingham in the season opener.

“Nottingham came in here and kind of let us know that we had a lot of work to do,” said Everette.

“That’s been our focus to make sure that we work to get better, every week, play by play, minute by minute. Everything we do is in order to get better. The character the kids showed, that’s from their desire and their want to. They wanted it today and we were able to go out there and make some plays to make it happen.

With PHS playing at Hopewell Valley this Saturday, Everette knows that his team has to maintain that hunger to get better.

“Today’s step was prosperity,” said Everette. “This is uncharted territory for us; we are going to go back to work on Monday and figure out our bumps and bruises. We will try to get everything fixed up and get ready for a real tough Hopewell team.”

In Ryan’s view, the team’s work ethic gives him confidence that the Little Tigers will keep up their tough play.

“We are hard workers; we put a lot of work in over the offseason,” said Ryan.

“We moved to 6:30 morning practices; we came in after school. We know what it is to work hard. After we lost badly here against Nottingham, we knew what it meant to lose and see all of our work go down the drain. Over these past few weeks, we have worked unbelievably hard; that’s the character of this team.

We want to keep this going and keep our streak alive.”

And with his display of character in engineering the PHS’ rally, Ryan has things falling in place for the Little Tigers.


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