Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 36
 
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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RUN TO DAYLIGHT: Princeton High running back Josh Gordon gets around the corner in a game last season. Senior star Gordon, who rushed for 991 yards in 2008, will be a key weapon for the Little Tigers this fall. PHS, which went 5-5 last season, will open its 2009 campaign with a game at Nottingham on September 12.

Espousing a Band of Brothers Mentality, PHS Football Primed for Battles Ahead

Bill Alden

The 2001 television miniseries Band of Brothers detailed the exploits of a gritty parachute regiment in World War II.

The story focuses on the mental and physical hurdles faced by the soldiers and their efforts to overcome such obstacles.

For the Princeton High football team, suffering through a four-game losing streak last fall after starting 5-1 has led the players to adopt the attitude dramatized in the TV classic.

“The ending of last year was a formative moment,” said PHS head coach Steve Everette, whose team narrowly missed the NJSIAA state playoffs due to its late skid.

“Our senior class is the largest we have had and one of the most together. Our motto is band of brothers. If you see one of our guys, two more are around the corner. The guys are always together.”

After having been through the battles, the team’s veterans have a sense of urgency.

“We have guys who are seniors who have been playing a lot since they have been sophomores, guys like Josh [Gordon], Trevor [Barsamian], and Andy [Zinsmeister],” said Everette, whose team kicks off the 2009 season when it plays at Nottingham on September 12.

“They are saying ‘it is time for us to step up; it is our time.’ They have been pushing the other kids.”

The PHS offense will get a big push from its one-two punch of speedy senior Gordon and bruising classmate Barsamian.

In 2008, the 5’8, 185-pound Gordon rushed for 991 yards while the 250-pound Barsamian rumbled for 634.

“People got a good taste last year of what they can do,” asserted Everette.

“Josh is in phenomenal shape. He changed his diet and put on 10-15 pounds of muscle. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash this summer. We are expecting some super big things from him. Trevor was frustrated after being injured for three games last year; he worked on his strength, speed, and flexibility. He came and talked to me in the winter and said he was disappointed he couldn’t do more for Josh and help him get 1,000 yards. You don’t see that everyday.”

Everette believes that the team will get a lot of help from senior quarterback Mike Olentine, who is stepping into the starting role after playing in a rotation last fall with the graduated Connor Ryan.

“We had a two-headed monster last year at QB, Mike split time with Connor [Ryan],” said Everette.

“Mike knows our offense inside and out. He doesn’t have as strong an arm as Connor but he is more athletic. He gets the ball out of his hands in a hurry. As soon as receivers are open he gets the ball to them. He spreads the ball around. He is the unquestioned leader of the offense; he takes control of the huddle.”

Olentine has some good targets in seniors Doug Bryant and Nick Miranda.

“Doug has been catching everything that comes his way,” said Everette.

“Nicky did a great job in the weight room; he is a step quicker. He is very explosive and we want to get him into space. We are excited about these guys.”

PHS is also excited about its veteran offensive line which features size and experience in seniors Joe Kirkenir (6’3, 245-pounds), Omar Yousef (6’6, 280-pounds), Drew Reifinger (6’0, 230-pounds), Charlie Meyer (5’10, 175-pounds), and Nick Zinsmeister (6’2, 245 pounds).

On the defensive side of the ball, the Little Tigers are looking for some big things from its group of veteran linebackers which features seniors Andy Zinsmeister and Brian Vieten together with junior Tom Borchert.

“They are the heart and soul of our defense; we are doing everything in our power to not play them both ways,” asserted Everette.

“They know what they are doing; they are more than willing to sacrifice for each other.”

Across the defensive line, PHS will be looking for seniors Jay Dwyer and Josh McNulty and sophomore Fernando Silva to provide a powerful front.

While senior Skye Ettin figures to be the main shut-down defender in the secondary, he will have plenty of help.

“Skye had a great basketball season; he’s back in football mode,” said Everette of the 6’3, 180-pound Ettin who led the CVC last fall with eight interceptions.

“We are deep back there with Bryant, Miranda, Billy Wiseman, Scotty Yehl, and Alex Mitko.”

With a lineup featuring veteran depth, Everette and his staff have been able to focus on fine-tuning things.

“The kids know the system; they have worked hard,” said Everette.

“We have really nit-picked them to do the little things right. If we do those things, we are confident we can make a deep run in the playoffs.

The Little Tigers are primed to show they are a playoff-caliber team from the opening kickoff of their game against Nottingham.

“The last couple of years, it has come down to the winner of the game going to the state; it is a crucial first game for us,” said Everette, whose team fell 29-3 to the Northstars in last fall’s season opener.

“We made mistakes and they capitalized. We learned not to leave plays on the field; when you get a chance to knock down a ball, you have to do that.”

Everette is confident that his seniors will make big plays as they look to make their final campaign something special.

“When the seniors were sophomores, we got into the playoffs,” noted Everette.

“They were disappointed that we missed out on a chance to do it last year. The first goal is to win the division. We have the talent to make a run into the first weekend of December; that is not an overstatement.”

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