After Enduring Disappointing 1-9 Season in 2016, PHS Football Hungry to Regain Winning Feeling
CATCHING ON: Princeton High star receiver Isaac Webb looks to break loose from a foe in 2016 action. Junior Webb figures to be a key weapon for the PHS offense this fall after emerging as a standout last fall. The Little Tigers kick off their 2017 season by hosting Hamilton on September 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Entering the 2014 season, the Princeton High football team had a chip on its shoulder.
Coming off a 0-10 season the year before, the players were hungry to prove that they could get back in the win column. Beginning with a 28-7 opening day win over Hamilton, the Little Tigers made their point, getting off to a 5-0 start on the way to an 8-2 record and a trip to the state playoffs.
With his 2017 squad looking to rebound from a 1-9 campaign last fall, PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher sees parallels to the 2014 team.
“I am really high on this team; we have had a great preseason,” said Gallagher, whose team kicks off its 2017 campaign by hosting Hamilton on September 2.
“We have some really great players that have been working hard all the way back to March 6 when we started taking attendance for weight room training. It is a little reminiscent of the 2014 team. That was a special group of kids and I think we have another special group. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot between now and November and there are a lot of conversations. In the end, the players have to show up. I am excited for them, I think this is a good group of kids that will show up on game day.”
Gallagher’s confidence stems, in part, from the return of a number of battle-tested veteran players.
“We have a good group of seniors with a lot of experience and we have a good slew of juniors that took their lumps last year as sophomores,” said Gallagher. “That will hopefully pay dividends for us throughout the season.”
One of the team’s key seniors is quarterback Vince Doran, who threw 16 touchdown passes last fall in his first season as the starting signal caller.
“Vince has had a great camp, he is a good athlete out there for us,” said Gallagher.
“He can move the ball with is arm and his legs so we will ask him to do a little bit of both. He is up for the challenge, I know he is excited to get back out there.”
PHS faces some challenges in its ground game as it will be going with some new faces with junior Evan Angelucci carrying the load.
“It is running back by committee right now,” said Gallagher, noting that senior stalwart Henry Garcia-Guzman is currently sidelined by an injury.
“Evan is a very good football player. He is another player with a great jump cut and great vision. We are excited for him as well.”
Junior receiver Isaac Webb enjoyed a superb debut season last fall and is poised for a great fall.
“Isaac Webb is going to be a real standout guy for us, he is a good football player,” said Gallagher.
“He can play at the next level, there is no doubt. He has the size and the speed; that is what coaches at the next level look for.”
In addition to Webb, PHS boasts several options at receiver. “We are going to have junior Steven Hennessy; he is a real good athlete for us,” added Gallagher.
“Tyler Komis, a junior, is doing a nice job and then we have two sophomores, Jay Jackson and Judd Petrone, whom we are going to expect some big things from. Will Smith is going to be a nice receiver for us, he got some reps last year as a junior. They are just having an excellent camp; I have seen some really good work.”
Gallagher is expecting some really good things from his offensive line.
“I think the line is our strength right now; you always have to start there,” said Gallagher.
“The line is going to anchor us. We are going to do as well as our offensive line does this year.”
Junior Jaylen Johnson has emerged as a strong performer in the trenches for the Little Tigers.
“Jaylen played some center for us last year in four or five games,” said Gallagher.
“He is about 6’3, 275 pounds and he can move pretty well. He is in the middle of the line, anchoring things. He will do a nice job for us.”
PHS features veterans across the line in senior Marqui McBride, junior Joe Feldman, senior Finn Kaiser, and senior Adam Musa.
“Marqui McBride is one of the guards; he has been a three-year guy for us and is another hardworking kid who is going to be a standout football player,” said Gallagher.
“He is going to be hard to handle he is going to cause a lot of teams fits because he is a mauler. He is a big kid and he does a nice job. Joe Feldman is the other guard, who has looked good in preseason and did a great job in the off season. At tackles are two more veterans; Finn Kaiser is coming back at left tackle and Adam Musa is coming back at right tackle. They did an excellent job last year and I think they are ten times better this year.”
The defensive line could be hard to handle as well, led by a trio of promising players.
“Our defensive line right now looks like it is going to be Tommy Tenzlinger, a junior, at one end and Connor Coffee, another junior, at the other end,” said Gallagher.
“Anchoring the middle will be a senior Takahi Carter, he is looking good for us too. We are running a 3-4 this year, we are switching our defense so we are excited about that.”
Senior Moses Mahiri and junior Jack Staples will be anchoring the team’s linebacking corps.
“One of the guys coming back is Moses Mahiri; another kid Jack Staples is doing a nice job, he really understands the defense,” said Gallagher.
“We are going to have some players filling in and we will have a couple of players going both ways.”
In the defensive backfield, some two-way players will be leading the way.
“We have a couple of familiar faces; we will have Isaac in there and Will Smith will be playing some defense for us,” said Gallagher, noting that a quartet of juniors Daunte Bess, Doug Avis, Ryan Benattar, and Tyler DeLalinde are also in the mix in the secondary.
In order to get back on the winning track, the Little Tigers need to be fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball.
“Without a doubt, it all starts with the line,” said Gallagher. “Vince threw for a lot of yards last year so we have to rack up those yards again this season. Hopefully our defense will bend but won’t break. We will be an aggressive defense. You have got to get those turnovers and you have to limit the turnovers on the offensive side of the ball. That hurt us last year.”
Gallagher is hoping that PHS can emulate the 2014 squad and get off to a good start when it hosts Hamilton in the opener.
“It is a great test, we have a lot of respect for their coach [Tom Hoglen],” said Gallagher.
“We have played them twice in my tenure and we have had two really good, close games. They always have good players, they usually have a lot of depth.”