Showing Knack for Clutch Plays in PHS Career, Hennessy Earns Spot in Sunshine Football Game
CATCHING ON: Princeton High football player Steve Hennessy heads up the field after making a catch in a game last fall. Recently graduated star running back/receiver/defensive back Hennessy will be competing for the West squad in the Sunshine Football Classic on July 2 at Notre Dame High. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Steve Hennessy got the chance to play split end for the Princeton High football team as junior in 2017 and made the most of it, grabbing several touchdown receptions.
“It was great to break out and finally play offense because receiver was always the position looking to play the most,” said Hennessy, who had been a back-up defensive back for most of his sophomore season.
“It was good to have that year and finally have stuff come together and score those touchdowns. I know we didn’t have the greatest year as a team, but it prepared me more for senior year, getting in all of those reps.”
Last fall, the 6’1, 165-pound Hennessy got reps on both sides of the ball making big plays on offense and defense as the Tigers snapped a 21-game losing streak with a 21-14 win over Cherry Hill East in late September, posting a 2-8 record.
Hennessy’s propensity for coming through in the clutch helped earn him a spot on the West squad in the 22nd annual West squad in the Sunshine Football Classic, which is slated for July 2 at Notre Dame High.
“I was really excited because everybody talks about taking off the pads for the last time in high school,” said Hennessy, reflecting on getting chosen for the game. “It is great to go out again on the field.”
It was great for Hennessy and his teammates to come through with the victory over Cherry Hill East.
“That was a really big deal for us because in a lot of the games because we are shorthanded on players, it wouldn’t be as competitive,” said Hennessy.
“In a game like that where it back and forth, we got down in the first half and we rallied back to win. It was a really big deal for us, especially because it wasn’t easy. That is what made it great.”
Two weeks later, Hennessy produced a great performance as PHS defeated West Windsor-Plainsboro 22-19. He returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and came up with two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on defense.
“The return is something I had been thinking about since fifth grade,” said Hennessy, who played running back, receiver, and defensive back for the Tigers.
“It was senior year and Homecoming. I was just so amped up to get us started and I got it started. That is something that your whole senior class was thinking about for years and especially to be playing our rival West Windsor. Not only just one of them, but both schools combined, under the lights. Everything came together perfectly.”
While things didn’t go so well for PHS the rest of the fall as it lost its final four games, Hennessy liked the way the team stuck together down the stretch.
“We had our core group of guys and it was really just an experience of brotherhood; that is what it is really all about,” said Hennessy, who served as a team co-captain along with classmate Connor Coffee.
“We were going out there every week and everyone was still trying their best. We were all sticking together. I have been part of teams where guys get down in each other and guys yell at each other and start pointing fingers. That wasn’t us this season. Everyone was together the whole time; we were always fighting for each other and that is what was most important to me.”
With PHS teammates Coffee, Evan Angelucci, and Jaylen Johnson also playing in the Sunshine game, Hennessy is looking forward to fighting one more battle with them.
“Those three guys have been on the team four years with me,” said Hennessy.
“To be able to play just one last game with them is a unique circumstance, especially because it is a lot of handpicked guys.”
Getting to be on the squad with Coffee has special meaning for Hennessy.
“That is a bond that lasts forever,” added Hennessy, who is headed to The College of New Jersey this fall and may try to walk on to its football team after his freshman year there. “You will always have that guy you were captain with senior year, and just to see him on the field with you is really good.”
Hennessy is also excited to be taking the field with some former foes.
“It will be interesting because we did a lot of scouting, we pick out guys every week that we want to key in on,” said Hennessy. “It is cool to be on the same side as them, it will be a new experience.”