After Breaking Through with 2 Wins in 2018, PHS Football Looking to be More Competitive
GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT: Princeton High football head coach Charlie Gallagher encourages his players during a preseason practice. PHS, which went 2-7 last fall as it snapped a 21-game losing streak, kicks off its 2019 campaign by playing at Hightstown on September 13. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Having snapped a 21-game losing streak last September and ending up with two wins on the fall, the Princeton High football team is bringing an upbeat mentality into the 2019 season.
“It is hard to compare preseasons to other preseasons, but this has been a really great preseason,” said PHS head coach Charlie Gallagher, whose team posted a 2-7 record in 2018.
“It is well organized. The kids are there to learn and to compete, which has been really great.”
With more kids in the program, the Tigers should be able to compete better this fall.
“Right now we have about 41 on the roster, which is not too shabby,” said Gallagher.
“We have about eight or nine in the freshman class. We don’t have a lot of seniors, but our junior class is pretty nice and so is our sophomore class. We are really confident in our starters; I think we can match up against a lot of teams in the area. Obviously injuries always play a big role; we are not the deepest team but we do have some really competent back-ups in key positions.”
Gallagher is confident that senior Judd Petrone and his cousin, sophomore Jaxon Petrone, can get the job done at quarterback.
“Jaxon has really blossomed,” said Gallagher. “Judd is his older cousin and he has experience last year. He has grown a lot, he is one of our team leaders. He is going to be in the QB mix and he is also going to be playing wide receiver. He is also going to be one of our starting safeties. He is a real ballplayer for us.”
At running back, senior Stephen Avis, sophomore Jason Ling, junior Moses Santizo, junior Dylan Angelucci, and sophomore Lahahmoo Pwee are all in the mix.
“We are converting a right tackle, Stephen Avis, who is also a hockey player, to running back; he has been really phenomenal so we are excited for him,” said Gallagher.
“He has good solid backup in Jason, who is a real good player. Those are the tailbacks and then we have two wings in Moses and Dylan who we are really high on. They are doing a really great job at that wing spot. Lahahmoo is also going to be one of the running backs, he is a super fast kid.”
Senior Matt Perello and junior Mike Spadea along with sophomores Everaldo and Dora Servil give the Tigers a solid receiving corps.
“I think we have two really, really nice receivers; No. 1 we have one of the fastest guys in Mercer County as we were able to recruit Matt from the track team,” said Gallagher, noting that Perello did play football in his freshman year.
“He has been focused on track, which is awesome, but he has bought in. He is really committed and we love having him. He will draw some double-teams and will free up other receivers. Then we have Mike on the other side. He is a big kid; he is going to play some wideout and tight end for us. He is coming off an injury last year. I know he is excited to play and he has done a really nice job in the preseason. Then we have the Servil brothers who will back those guys up.”
Across the line, PHS will feature senior Fred Otte, senior Alexis Thomas, junior Kevin Davila, sophomore Giancarlo Momo, juniors Andreas Lambros, and Leo Alexandroff
“We have two rising seniors, Fred is returning as a center and then another young man, Alexis, is a player who has done a really nice job for us,” said Gallagher.
“He is just a really tough kid and a smart kid. We have junior who we think could be a really great two-way lineman in Kevin. He is a really good ballplayer; he really committed over the summer and did a really good job. At our left tackle, we have a young player and a big kid, Giancarlo. We are happy with him. Our other tackle position is a little up in the air, we have two kids vying for that spot right now in Andreas and Leo, a transfer from England who is rugby player. He is going to be a good player.”
Junior Jose Espinosa will be leading the defensive line along with Alexandroff, Davila, Avis, and Spadea.
“We start with Jose at nose guard; he is going to be really good, he is fast,” said Gallagher. “Alexandroff and Davila are at the tackles. Our defensive ends will be Avis and Spadea.”
At linebacker, Angelucci and Sanitzo figure to be the starters with Judd Petrone, the Servils, and Perello seeing action in the secondary.
“Our inside backers will be our two wings Angelucci and Sanitzo,” said Gallagher.
“Then we have an array of defensive backs, it could be Judd Petrone, the Servils, and Perello.
In Gallagher’s view, keys to success this fall for the Tigers center on bolstering the passing game, spreading the wealth among the running backs, and taking care of the ball.
“If you look at all of the touchdowns we scored last year, they were via the rush; we have to be able to throw the ball into the end zone this year,” said Gallagher.
“We have some really skilled guys at the wide out and between both Petrones, we are going to get the ball to them. We have a lot of strong running backs. It is not a one-headed monster, it is really a three-headed monster. We are going to be able to split the carries up. I am concerned about turning over the ball so we have to keep the ball out of the other team’s hands. We can’t cough the ball up.”
With PHS opening its season at Hightstown (0-1) on September 13, Gallagher knows his players will need to produce a strong effort to come away with a win.
“It is a Friday night and we are excited about that,” said Gallagher. “They have some good ballplayers, we are definitely going to have our work cut out for us. They have run a single wing which we haven’t defended a lot.”
No matter what happens on Friday, Gallagher believes the Tigers are headed in the right direction.
“I don’t know how many games we are going to win, but I know we are a better team than in previous years,” said Gallagher.
“The program is better. We have had some really great athletes in the past but the way we are doing things right now is going to really reap benefits. If not this year, then in future years. We have a lot of juniors and a lot of sophomores. We will more competitive than in years past.”