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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

TRIGGER HAPPY: Princeton Day School sophomore quarterback Clint O'Brien hones his passing form at a practice last week. The experience O'Brien gained last year from starting as a freshman should hold the Panthers in good stead as they look to improve on the 4-4 mark they posted in 2004. PDS kicks off the 2005 season by hosting Morrisville this Friday evening.
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After Enjoying a Taste of Success Last Fall, PDS Football Aims to Feast on Foes in 2005

By Bill Alden

For a month last fall, the Princeton Day School football team performed at a level not seen by the program in years.

Catching fire in midseason, the Panthers reeled off four straight wins, outscoring their foes 111-0 during that sizzling stretch.

As PDS prepares for the 2005 campaign, the players are primed to prove that their 4-4 record last year was just the tip of the iceberg.

"They want to have a winning season," said PDS head coach Bruce Devlin, who is entering his third year at the helm of the PDS program.

"They worked hard all summer. They lifted weights Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We did 7-on-7 drills in the four weeks before the start of practice. Almost everybody was in and working hard."

That work ethic has carried into preseason camp. "We are doing three-a-days; they're here from 7:30 to 5:30 everyday," added Devlin. "They are beat-up and tired but excited."

The Panthers should have an exciting offense with sophomore quarterback Clint O'Brien triggering the attack.

"Clint was learning on the job last year," said Devlin of his 6'2, 195-pound signal caller. "This year he looks like a quarterback. From day one he knows what he is doing. He has a good arm and he can run the option."

Aiding O'Brien will be a pair of productive running backs in senior Alex Kowalski and sophomore Mike Shimkin.

"Alex weighs 222 pounds and runs a 4.6 40," said Devlin with a slight laugh. "He is going to hurt some people. Mike is one of the hardest hitters on the team. He's not afraid of contact."

PDS also has speed in its receiving corps to loosen up defenses in senior Mike Rappaport and sophomores Mark Madden and Andrew Ojeda.

"Mike Rappaport can run and he can catch," said Devlin. "He works hard. Mark will get his shots as well. Andrew will get some carries in addition to playing wide receiver. We have three kids who can fly and that's a big help."

Devlin acknowledges that his offensive line is a question mark coming into the season, having lost four of five starters from last season.

In order to shore up that key unit, Devlin has moved hard-hitting David Blitzer to center from fullback. "Dave is 6'1, 205 pounds," added Devlin, referring to the senior who is the club's top linebacker. "He's a big, tough kid; he can be a leader at center."

Others who should see action along the offensive line include Craig Knowlton, Kyle Brinster, Sal Drago, Brian Fishbein, Jonathan Hofmann, and Peter Travers.

By contrast, the PDS defensive front is one of the most experienced units on the team. "Most of our front seven is back," said Devlin. "We have Blitzer at linebacker, Kowalski and Knowlton at tackle, and Hofmann at end."

With that kind of savvy up front, PDS plans to mix up its defensive schemes. "We ran a 5-2 last year but we will also run a 4-3 this year," explained Devlin.

"Our defensive coach Win Headley has pro experience with the Green Bay Packers and college experience at Princeton. He's forgotten more about defense than most people know. He'll have them running a lot of different sets."

But Devlin knows that it will take more than talent and a variety of schemes in order to better last year's mark.

"I told the guys to remember the taste of winning that they had last year and to build on that," asserted Devlin, whose club kicks off its season by a home game this Friday night against Morrisville.

"They have to come with the right attitude and not take any plays off. I think that we're going to do well. I think we're going to put a lot of points on the board."


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