PHS Football Escapes HoVal Trap To Remain Alive in Playoff Chase
By Bill Alden
The Princeton High football team faced a classic "trap" game last Saturday when it played at Hopewell Valley.
Coming off an emotional win over Trenton a week earlier, the 3-2 Little Tigers were going to be hard-pressed to summon that kind of passion for a second game in a row as they faced winless HoVal.
Buoyed by a home crowd in its second season since reinstating football after a 72-year absence, the Bulldogs had nothing to lose as they tried to spoil PHS' drive to qualify for its first state playoff appearance since 1994.
Sure enough, HoVal answered the bell with more fire as it forced a PHS fumble on the opening kickoff and then scored to take a 7-0 lead. Hampered by turnovers and penalties, PHS didn't score until a third quarter touchdown plunge by quarterback Vinny Giacalone.
With the Little Tigers trailing 7-6 with nine minutes left in the game, lightning struck as Little Tiger Alexz Henriques returned a HoVal punt 51 yards for a touchdown.
PHS then scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Giacalone to Ben Guervil to get some breathing room. Henriques then hit paydirt again as he scampered 55 yards for a touchdown as PHS pushed the final margin to 27-7.
In reflecting on his team's hard-earned triumph, Everette credited HoVal for pushing PHS to the limit.
"HoVal did an outstanding job," said Everette. "They came to play and we had a terrible first half. We were terrible offensively. They forced turnovers and took advantage of one of them."
The third-year head coach acknowledged that his team suffered a letdown as it narrowly dodged a bullet. "We had a big win against Trenton and it was difficult for the players to get up against a team they had never seen," said Everette. "We didn't have a good week of practice."
In fact, Everette knew his team was fortunate to only be behind 7-6 when the game hit the fourth quarter.
"I was happy we weren't down by more," admitted Everette, whose team ended the afternoon with six turnovers and seven penalties. "Defensively we played extremely well. That kept us in the game."
But since the Little Tigers kept alive in the state playoff chase, Everette isn't worried about style points.
"Right now any win that you can get this late in the season is good," added Everette, who got 84 yards rushing from Henriques, 130 yards passing from Giacalone, and four catches for 88 yards from Vance Slocum. "If you have to win ugly, that's OK."
With PHS playing at 4-2 WW/P-N on October 30 in a game with major playoff implications, Everette knows his club has to be sharp from the opening gun.
"That's a pretty tough team, they do a heckuva job with the option," said Everette, referring to WW/P-N.
"We're going to have to come out and play hard. We have to be focused this week. We can't wait until late to start playing. We have to fix up the turnovers and penalties."