Although his Princeton High football team fell 38-12 at Hightstown last Friday night, Joe Gargione doesn’t feel that there is that much difference between the two squads.
“We didn’t lose outright; we lost because of shooting ourselves in the foot,” said PHS head coach Gargione, whose team dropped to 1-1. “We weren’t using our heads.”
The Little Tigers displayed sloppiness on their first possession when they drove to Hightstown one-yard line but then committed an offsides penalty and had to settle for a field goal.
After falling behind 14-3, PHS came up with a big play in the second quarter as Zack DiGregorio hit Liam Helstrom with a 15-yard touchdown as the Little Tigers narrowed the gap to 14-10.
“We got a TD on a beautiful pass from Zack to Liam,” recalled Gargione. “Zack sprinted to his left and threw a perfect ball.”
But a special teams lapse on the ensuing kickoff hurt the Little Tigers as Andrew Daniels sprinted for an 88-yard touchdown return to help the Rams build their lead to 21-10.
Bouncing back from that setback, PHS recovered a fumble and moved the ball inside the Hightstown one-yard line in the waning moments of the half.
“We had four seconds left in the half and we said let’s do a quarterback sneak,” said Gargione.
“I told the line I needed them to be tough. I thought Zack got in but they didn’t give us the call. I looked at the film over and over and it looked like most of his body was in the end zone. That would have made it 21-16 and 21-17 if we make the point after. That really changed the game.”
Deflated by that sequence, the Little Tigers saw the game get away from them in the second half as the Rams rolled to the victory.
In reflecting on the loss, Gargione pointed to the play of junior lineman and kicker Cal O’Meara as a bright spot for the Little Tigers.
“Cal O’Meara had a big game,” said Gargione. “He laid out for an interception. He kicked a field goal and made the extra point after the touchdown. He also had some big punts that put them in a hole.”
With PHS hosting a powerful WW/P-S (1-1) team this Saturday, the Little Tigers will need O’Meara and his linemates to come up big in the trenches.
“We assume that Schoenauer [WW/P-S star running back Brian Schoenauer] will be playing; he tweaked his hamstring against Steinert and they took him out to rest it,” said Gargione. “The backup played really well. Obviously, we need to stop the run.”
Gargione is looking for his team to regain the headiness it showed in its 27-21 opening day win over Northern Burlington two weeks ago.
“We need to be mistake-free like we were in the opener,” said Gargione. “We need to get the penalties out of our system. We need the secondary playing better. We gave up 240 yards passing to Hightstown and two big pass plays in the opener. We need to be where we are supposed to be and cover better. We need to get the line clicking again.”