October 7, 2020

QB Petrone Perseveres to Throw TD Bomb in 1st Start, Making a Highlight as PHS Football Falls to Robbinsville

ACTION JAXON: Princeton High quarterback Jaxon Petrone gets ready for a hand off last Friday night as PHS played at Robbinsville in the season opener for both teams. Making his debut as starting QB, Petrone threw a fourth quarter touchdown pass to provide a highlight as the Tigers fell 42-6. PHS hosts Bishop Eustace on October 10 in its home opener. (Photo by Dennis Symons)

By Bill Alden

Jaxon Petrone had reason to be particularly grateful to take the field for the Princeton High football team as it played at Robbinsville last Friday evening in the season opener for both teams.

Having been sidelined all last fall due to injury and with COVID-19 putting the 2020 season in doubt for months, junior quarterback Petrone was thrilled to finally be leading the PHS offense.

“It is a great feeling to be out there, I didn’t know if we were going to be out there or not with the COVID,” said Petrone.

“Coach [Charlie Gallagher] said relish the moment, value it, and just be happy to be out there.”

Facing a tough Robbinsville team coming off a 9-1 season, Petrone and his teammates experienced some tough moments as the Ravens jumped out to a 35-0 lead at halftime on the way to a 42-6 win.

Taking his lumps on the evening, Petrone persevered and provided a highlight, connecting with junior wide receiver Jaiden Johnson for a 51-yard touchdown pass with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter.

“It felt great throwing that last TD pass, the scoreboard sucks but it was worth it,” said Petrone.

“I just knew that Jaiden was going to beat the cornerback. I threw it up, led him and he got the touchdown.”

Reflecting on his debut, Petrone knows that there is plenty of room for improvement.

“I need to be getting back in the pocket more, stepping up, following through more on throwing,” said Petrone. “We need to work more as team the next game.”

PHS head coach Gallagher liked the work he got from his junior quarterback.

“We think the world of Jaxon, we have some really talented wide receivers and we have to get them down the field,” said Gallagher.

“We can’t rely on Hail Marys. There was eight minutes left and we wanted to get the ball back and we wanted to score. I could have accepted more penalties and just pushed them farther back. I declined the penalties. It was give me the ball, we got an opportunity to score.”

Getting an opportunity to kick off the 2020 season was heartening for Gallagher.

“I am happy to be out here, I am happy for the kids but I am a little disappointed in the result,” said Gallagher.

“I feel like we have a good team. I still believe in those guys. We have got good players.”

In Gallagher’s view, not having any scrimmages this fall due to COVID-19 restrictions helped result in his team’s uneven play which saw the Tigers make some miscues on both sides of the ball.

“I was a little worried about sloppiness and I am still worried about that,” said Gallagher.

“We made a lot of mental errors out there. We turned the ball over a couple of times. We threw a pick six. We have a big catch for 15 yards and we fumble the ball. We talked about ball security as being one of those issues that could happen early in the season. Guys got rocked a little bit and the ball got jarred loose; hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”

Even though PHS was trailing 35-0 after two quarters, Gallagher urged his players to not get discouraged.

“We had a great halftime, we stayed positive,” said Gallagher. “In the end, I say ‘listen man, when your head is hanging down, just look to the sidelines and we will pick you back up. We will coach you. Yeah you are doing things wrong but we are not going to say you can’t do that but this is what you can do.’”

Former soccer player Johnson, playing in his first high school football game, showed he can do some special things.

“Jaiden had a good return, he also played some great cornerback for the first time ever,” said Gallagher.

“He had great coverage. He is happy, he scored a big touchdown. He is a talented kid, he is a super nice kid. We are going to try to get him the ball more.”

Despite the result in the opener, Gallagher believes his players are going to bounce back.

“Hopefully, they get their feet wet and understand what this game is all about,” said Gallagher, whose team hosts Bishop Eustace on October 10 in its home opener.

“I am still going to rely on our upperclassmen, we have got good juniors and seniors. I am happy with these guys, I am proud of them.”

Petrone, for his part, will be happy to get the chance to play some more games.

“I waited a long time, I didn’t know if we were going to do it or not,” said Petrone. “We got the chance to do it, and it is just having fun with it.”