Vol. LXI, No. 36
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
LOCKED IN: Princeton senior star John Miranda locks in on a receiver in action last season. PHS will be depending on Miranda to give it leadership and production this season at free safety and at wide receiver.
The Princeton High football team has been spoiled the last few years when it comes to the skill positions.
Featuring record-breaking running back Alexz Henriques, star quarterbacks like Vinny Giacalone and Johnny Mitko, and such standout receivers as Marc Andre, Ben Guervil, and Tyler Moni, the ball has typically been in the hands of a few players.
As the Little Tigers look ahead to their season-opener this Saturday at Steinert, PHS head coach Steve Everette knows that his team is going to have to spread the wealth.
"We don't have any super spectacular players," said Everette. "We're going to be a different kind of team. You can't replace a guy like Alexz who could read the field and cut back for 90-yard runs."
Everette, though, does believe his team has strength in numbers, pointing with pride to the team's group of 14 seniors. "It's a very diverse group but they are tight-knit," said Everette. "They are different kids but when it comes to playing football they all know their roles and work together."
The team's senior class includes Matt Abrams, Steven Barsamian, Larry Berry, Tausif Billah, Doug Borchert, Alex Bozich, Joey Cifelli, Joe D'Eramo, David Griffin, Luke LaVoie, John Miranda, Peter Murphy, Jordan Simpson, and Matt Young.
"Most of the seniors played last year as juniors so they understand our system," added Everette, whose team went 4-6 last fall, winning four of its last six games after a 0-4 start.
"They are very dedicated; they have put in a good deal of work. They were disappointed with our record last year and they want a chance at the playoffs. They want to chase the brass ring."
Leading the chase from the running back position will be seniors LaVoie and Borchert together with sophomores Trevor Barsamian and Josh Gordon. "The running backs are hard-nosed kids; they are tough nuts," asserted Everette.
"Doug runs hard between the tackles. Trevor is 6'0, 240 pounds; he's a downhill runner, we don't ask him to do anything fancy. Luke is the same way; he's just not as big. Josh is a scat back, he gives us a change of pace."
The Little Tigers will have a change of pace at quarterback as junior Connor Ryan replaces the graduated Mitko. "Connor has been the JV quarterback the last two years," said Everette. "He is not as athletic as Johnny but he has a real good arm. He has good control of our offense."
Ryan will be throwing to a receiving corps that will feature the rangy Miranda together with Doug Bryant, Zephrem Gordon, and Nick Miranda.
The foundation of the PHS offense will be its offensive line which boasts experience and bulk. "We have Joe Giacalone and Tom Hines who started last season as sophomores," said Everette. "We have Jordan Simpson and Peter Murphy who are seniors. I think another senior Joe Cifelli is ready to step up."
Everette believes his defense is ready to step up. "The defense has been looking real solid," said Everette, referring to that unit's performance in preseason scrimmages. "I think our front seven should be in a real position of strength for us."
The PHS defense will be spearheaded by rugged senior linebackers Borchert and LaVoie. "They both made second-team All-CVC last year," said Everette, referring to the hard-hitting duo.
Across the line, PHS will feature junior Brandon Merrill and Trevor Barsamian in the middle with Young, Cifelli, Bozich, and Eramo.
In the secondary, the Little Tigers will have to make up for the loss of Sascha Hopson. "Sascha will be hard to replace," acknowledged Everette. "He was a three-year starter who made 100 tackles a season. We have John Miranda at free safety; we're looking at him to make all the checks. He really came on last year." Others in the mix at defensive back include Zephrem Gordon, Rashad Bullock, Steve Barsamian, and David Griffin.
PHS is looking at Griffin, an accomplished punter and place kicker, to be a weapon. "David is one of the best kickers in the CVC," asserted Everette. "We're going to ask him to punt it down the field and pin teams in their zone."
PHS will need to establish good field position as it travels to Steinert, which bottled up the Little Tigers 20-0 in last season's season opener.
"Steinert is going to be Steinert," said Everette. "They have lost Jimmy Costello at running back but I'm sure they have someone working for his chance. Rumor has it that they may pass more but I know they will be physical."
Everette believes his team is up for that challenge. "Our moniker may be the Little Tigers but we have bigger offensive and defensive lines than we've had in the past," said Everette.
"We have a scrappy team. We need to cut down on turnovers. We need the kids to understand their roles. If one kid is hot, we'll ride that and the others have to be ready to come in."
And with its group of seniors leading the way, PHS could have a nice ride this fall.
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