Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 37
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
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STREAKING AWAY: Princeton High football star Eric Shorter heads to daylight in 2010 action. Last Saturday, Shorter returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and then later scored on a 40-yard TD pass to help PHS to a 20-14 win at Northern Burlington. The victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for PHS which went 0-10 last year and hadn’t won since topping WW/P-S 31-17 on November 7, 2009. The Little Tigers will look to keep on the winning track when they host Burlington Township on September 17.

Displaying Heart, Grit in Opening Day Win, PHS Football Snaps 11-Game Losing Streak

Bill Alden

Even though the Princeton High football team brought an 11-game losing streak into its season opener last Saturday at Northern Burlington, Joe Gargione was brimming with confidence.

“I actually told them on Monday that I am expecting to win this game,” said PHS head coach Gargione. “I said they need to believe that and execute mentally.”

The players took Gargione’s words to heart. “We had good practices the entire week,” said Gargione.

“I could tell from the intensity and excitement they showed that they were ready. Every once in a while we had a period that wasn’t as sharp as we wanted and they bounced right back.”

PHS senior star Eric Shorter was ready to shine as he returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to give the Little Tigers a 6-0 lead.

“That was a good way to start off the game; I was saying to the offense get ready and then it was OK we don’t have to go out,” said Gargione with a chuckle.

“At the same time, we had to be cool, it is a long game and there was a lot of time left.”

Building on that great start, PHS went on to do something it hadn’t done in a long time, prevailing 20-14.

“It was a huge lift off my back,” said the second-year head coach, noting that PHS hadn’t won since topping WW/P-S 31-17 on November 7, 2009.

“It was awesome for the kids. They were cheering and jumping up and down like they had won a championship.”

In reflecting on the triumph, Gargione noted that it was critical for the Little Tigers to jump out to 20-7 at halftime. PHS built that cushion as Shorter scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alex Mitko and then Mitko ran in for a TD just before intermission.

“We were not up at half all last year, the closest we were was being down 7-6 at half against Lawrence,” said Gargione.

“Shorter’s touchdown came on an isolation route; I wasn’t sure if Alex saw the seam route. The offensive line gave him time to throw and Eric was able to get under the ball. It was great to get that score before half; we didn’t do much on offense in the second half.”

In the second half, the PHS defense came up big. “They took the second half kickoff and went down and scored to make it 20-14,” said Gargione. “Our defense really strapped it up over the rest of the half.”

Senior star Mitko exemplified the team’s intensity and durability as it pulled out the victory.

“Mitko was not only good at QB but was a good all-around player; he played well on defense,” said Gargione of Mitko, who completed seven of eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“He and the other seniors were impressive. We have a lot of those kids who go both ways; it was a hot summer day and they showed that they are tough kids.”

Another one of those seniors, linebacker Collin Bell, brought some heat emotionally for the Little Tigers.

“Collin Bell played his heart out on defense from the first play,” said Gargione, who also cited the play of the team’s offensive line and the individual efforts of Jeff Barsamian, Jack Persico, and Fernando Silva as keys to the victory. “His excitement was contagious and a lot of people noticed it.”

Gargione is hoping that Saturday’s triumph will make winning contagious for his squad which plays in its home opener on September 17 when it hosts Burlington Township.

“I don’t want them to be satisfied with one win, it was great to win on the road against a Burlington team, that gives us a positive feeling,” asserted Gargione. “

“I told the kids to enjoy it Saturday and rest on Sunday and stay off their legs and be ready to come to work on Monday and focus on Burlington. They are a good team and it is going to be a tough game. We are 1-0 and have at least nine more chances to win. You never know what can happen.”

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