December 2, 2020

PHS Football Loses to Haddon to Finish 1-5 But Enjoyed Successful Fall Despite Record

HOLY MOSES: Princeton High running back/linebacker Moses Santizo looks for an opening in recent action. Senior co-captain Santizo provided leadership and production as PHS went 1-5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High football team lost 30-6 at Haddon Township in its season finale on November 21, Charlie Gallagher saw reasons to be encouraged.

“The effort was like it has been in every other game, it was outstanding,” said PHS head coach Gallagher, whose team’s lone score in the finale came on a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jaxon Petrone to classmate Jaiden Johnson as the Tigers finished the fall with a 1-5 record.

“We played a few new guys because we had some guys banged up. We were able to get a good look at some of our younger guys and they just did an outstanding job. These are good program guys who have been at practice every single day on time. When you do that, you deserve a hand in the pot, so to speak. This was a great opportunity.”

Junior running back Lahehmoo Pwee took advantage of his opportunity to play against Haddon, rushing for 55 yards.

“Lahehmoo played halfback for us and did an outstanding job,” said Gallagher.

“When he turned in his equipment, I told him how proud I was of him. We were a little nervous about Lehehmoo, he played the first game and things didn’t go well. He thinks he could have played a better game and we all do. He has grown so much over the past several weeks. In the back of my mind on the bus ride down, it is like this is his audition. Do I leave this game saying do we need a tailback or did Lehehmoo step up and he surely did. He did an outstanding job.”

In Gallagher’s view, the team grew as it persevered through the ups and downs of the season.

“The season was extremely successful,” said Gallagher. “I just sent an email to the coaches and I said they played together better than they have in years past. The football acumen is ten times better, players are holding each other accountable. I saw a great rise in leadership, not only from my captains but from other guys that said ‘listen, we are not going to take this anymore.’ We all need to hold each other to a higher standard. We had great practices throughout the entire season.”

PHS displayed that togetherness when it posted its lone win of the season, overcoming a 10-0 fourth quarter deficit against Bishop Eustace to pull out an 18-17 win in overtime on October 10.

“It is crazy, I was talking to one of my guys today and that is what he brought up,” said Gallagher, whose program snapped a 12-game losing streak with the victory, having not won since defeating West Windsor/Plainsboro 22-19 on October 12, 2018.

“If that is what he wants to remember, that is awesome. You try to build some momentum. You have to have confidence in your guys without a doubt. It is just a bunch of good kids.”

The Tigers boasted a lot of good kids in a 13-player senior class, led by tri-captains Moses Santizo, Mike Spadea and Dylan Angelucci.

“We have had some good senior classes but this senior class has separated themselves a little bit,” said Gallagher, whose Class of 2021 also included Leo Alexandroff, Diego Alvarez-Garcia, Matthew Cox, Jose Espinosa, Andreas Lambros, Jose Morales, Dora Servil, Richie Valme, Manuel Vasquez, and Michael Wargo.

“First of all, they were a larger group. We haven’t had as large a senior class like this in a while. That was nice. These guys were vocal and they could still be more vocal. It is about rallying the team a little bit, saying what is on your mind. The kids feed off of that. They also feed off when you say nothing, they feel that there is a level of uncertainty. If my captain is not saying anything, what does that mean? Our captains articulated things this year which was phenomenal. Whether it be before practice or before a game, they were excited to get out on the field and we need more of that.”

With a solid group of juniors returning, Gallagher is excited about what lies ahead for the program.

“Some of these juniors are first year guys and got to play this year; they had never played a down before because they had no experience,” said Gallagher.

“Those juniors did a great job, they really stepped it up. No. 1 was Jaiden Johnson, I think he had four touchdowns. We have got to get him the ball, he has got to have a great offseason. Everaldo Servil was awesome in our win. He had that touchdown and caught a big one on fourth down. We are going to need him to do that every game. We have three of the five guys back on the line, with both guards, Ben Boyden-Bailey and Jason Ling, they really learned a lot, and then Giancarlo Momo at tackle. Wes Henry didn’t play in the last game but he was a big factor this year on defense. He is only going to come back bigger and stronger next year.”

Over the course of the fall, the PHS players showed their strength on a daily basis as they continued to plug away while handling COVID protocols and dealing with two games getting canceled.

“They kept coming to practice so we kept coaching them, I tip my hat to all of those kids,” said Gallagher, who credited his coaching staff, athletic trainers, health monitors, athletic director Brian Dzbenski, and athletic secretary Kathy Herzog with all playing key roles in making the season happen.

“I spoke at the board meeting the other day and I just said thank you. It was a total team effort. But as to the players themselves, nothing deterred those guys. They came out ready to learn on Monday and Tuesday, suit up on Wednesday and Thursday and then have a little polish day on Friday to get ready for the game. We were blessed and extremely fortunate to be able to get the six games. I think there were 80 games canceled that last week. No one complained, these kids were so happy to be out there.”