Excited to finally be playing their first game on the school’s new turf field, the players on the Princeton High football team made a grand entrance last Saturday.
The PHS players sprinted en masse between a cordon of cheerleaders with music blaring moments before the kickoff against visiting Willingboro.
Unfortunately, the Chimeras spoiled the homecoming party as they raced out to a 28-3 lead on the way to a 36-5 triumph.
In reflecting on the defeat, which left his team at 0-6, PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher liked the way his team hung in there during the second half.
“We got on the scoreboard in the second half,” said Gallagher. “We didn’t know it was going to come via a safety but we’ll take it any way we can, especially with underclassmen getting out there on the field. We were playing well, we held tough. We are playing good football; we are getting after it on defense.”
While the PHS defense forced two fumbles in addition to getting the fourth quarter safety, Gallagher acknowledged that his offense misfired.
“We need to work on offense and the game plan,” said Gallagher. “We need to be able to run down the field and pass down the field. We didn’t get into the end zone. We shoot ourselves in the foot when we get inside the 20 with errant snaps, fumbles, and interceptions.”
Despite the miscues, sophomore quarterback Dave Beamer did make some big plays in his second start in place of injured Sam Smallzman.
“I was yelling at him; it is his second game and he is a veteran now,” said Gallagher. “He’s young; I am not going to get all over him.”
In Gallagher’s view, youth is a strength for the Little Tiger program. “We have a lot of sophomores out there; most likely those guys are supposed to be playing some good JV football and we are moving them to the varsity level,” said Gallagher.
“The speed of the game has obviously changed and they are just learning. I am excited for them; I know they are excited to have that opportunity. Guys like Matt Ochoa, Noah Ziegler, and Matt Toplin are doing a nice job for us. These are sophomores who are going to be around for a long time and we are going to take our lumps this year.”
With PHS having lost some key starters to injury and others playing both ways, it needs to be as sharp as possible.
“We want to eliminate the mistakes, the fumbled snaps, bad throws, and things like that, those things can be fixed,” said Gallagher, whose team plays at Burlington Township on October 26.
“That is just playing good fundamental solid football and trying to move down the field. I am not sure why we are making the mistakes. We do a nice job in practice. At the same time, obviously our numbers are hurting a little bit so we are not getting that great quality look in practice that we need.”
Despite the steady diet of losing, the Little Tigers have shown a hunger for the game.
“You look at a kid like Liam Helstrom, he is out here having fun, he is out here playing football,” said Gallagher, referring to his senior star who has played well at receiver and linebacker all season long.
“I keep getting complimented by the refs, saying my God, your guys are fighting. They are scratching, they are clawing; they are not getting terribly upset about it. They are out there playing football. It is a game, they realize the bigger picture for 2013. We want to get some wins, no doubt about that. We’ll work hard and get ready for Burlington Township.”