Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 36
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
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EVASIVE ACTION: Princeton High quarterback Alex Mitko evades a defender in a recent scrimmage. Junior Mitko brings an ability to throw on the run to the position, much like his older brother, former PHS star quarterback Johnny Mitko.

PHS Football Kicking Off Gargione Era; Looking to Play Tough and Stick Together

Bill Alden

Joe Gargione started his first practice as the new head coach of the Princeton High football team by greeting his players with an inspirational message.

“The first quote I put on the board was ‘the harder you work, the harder it is to quit;’ I wanted to make them realize that as long as they push and give 100 percent, they aren’t going to want to quit,” said Gargione, who moved up to head coach from assistant when Steve Everette stepped down last spring after leading the program for the past eight seasons.

“I give them a quote everyday. I tell them what we are going to do that day and then I give them a quote. They write it down on a sheet of paper and keep that with their playbook. It is something to inspire them and make them think.”

So far in training camp, Gargione has seen an inspired response from his players. “I didn’t know what to expect and I was not sure how fast they were going to learn,” said Gargione, a former College of New Jersey star who had been serving as offensive coordinator for PHS before getting promoted.

“After the first two scrimmages, I feel a lot better. They are playing tough and sticking together.”

As the Little Tigers get ready to open regular season play by hosting Northern Burlington on September 11, Gargione likes the toughness he is seeing from new starting quarterback, junior Alex Mitko.

“Alex has the ability to throw on the run,” asserted Gargione, who will be using sophomore Zack DiGregorio as his back-up quarterback. “He is a smart quarterback; he recognizes coverages. He has a strong arm and he is very tough.”

PHS will be looking for some strong rushing from senior star Tom Borchert. “Borchert is going to to get a lot of carries,” said Gargione, who will also be giving carries to sophomore Eric Yehl and junior Nico Mercuro. “We will do what we can to get Tom a rest but we want to keep our best athletes on the field.”

One of the best athletes on the squad, junior Eric Shorter, will be featured at wide receiver.

“Eric has so much natural ability; he is a phenomenal athlete,” said Gargione, noting that Shorter emerged as a track star this past spring. “We will also be using Kevin White at receiver.”

Senior Luke Cordonnier brings size and ability to the tight end spot. “Luke has an amazing knack for catching the ball,” said Gargione of the 5’11, 220-pound Cordonnier.

Gargione acknowledges that it will take some time for his offensive line to get the knack.

“It is a work in progress,” said Gargione, who is looking at senior Justin Beslity, junior Jeff Barsamian, and sophomore Jeff Persico, among others, along the line. “We can only go as fast as they go. We have talent; we just need to get everyone on the same page.”

PHS will be depending on Borchert to keep everyone on the same page on defense.

“Borchert is the leader of the defensive squad at linebacker; he is the quarterback of the defense,” said Gargione, noting that Eric Yehl, Mercuro, Dylan Dorman-Schroeder, and Jeff Adebayo are in the mix at linebacker with Beslity, Barsamian, and Persico likely to hold down the line.

The secondary will feature Shorter and Mitko. “Shorter will play in a centerfield role; he can really go after the ball,” said Gargione. “Mitko is a tough kid and he wants to play back there. We are also looking at Tim Miranda, Kevin White, Billy Wiseman, and Scott Yehl.”

With PHS having lost 20 seniors and the head coach from a team that went 7-3 last year, winning the CVC’s Valley Division and making the state playoffs along the way, it appears that some lean times could be ahead. Gargione, though, doesn’t see it that way. “I don’t want to use rebuilding year as an excuse; that is giving up on the season,” said Gargione. “I don’t see why we can’t have expectations of doing well.”

In Gargione’s view, the key to doing well comes down to mastering the basics.

“We need to take control over the things that we can control,” said Gargione. “I can’t coach height or speed but I can make them play faster. I want them to run to the ball every time we break the huddle to show that we aren’t tired. We can’t make mental mistakes. We have to go on the right snap count and have no offsides. We have to execute.”

If PHS plays a brisk, sharp brand of football this fall, it could write an inspirational story.

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