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Vol. LXII, No. 37
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
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RYANAIR: Princeton High quarterback Connor Ryan lofts a pass in action last season. PHS is depending on senior star Ryan to have a big year as the Little Tigers looks to make a second straight trip to the state playoffs. PHS kicks off its 2008 campaign on September 13 when it hosts Nottingham.

After Getting Taste of State Playoffs Last Fall, PHS Football Hungry to Become CVC Power

Bill Alden

For the Princeton High football team, reaching the state playoffs last fall turned into a matter of being careful what you ask for.

The eighth-seeded Little Tigers absorbed a 38-3 rout at No. 2 Long Branch in their first playoff appearance since 1993.

Although PHS head coach Steve Everette was disappointed by the result, he believes the experience has been a springboard for the program going into the 2008 season.

“The kids got that taste of the playoffs and they want to get back again,” said Everette, who guided the Little Tigers to a 5-5 record last fall.

“They were left with a sour taste after the loss; they don’t think the way we went out was representative.”

The PHS players have dealt with that disappointment by plunging into their offseason conditioning.

“The week after the season was done, the guys came up to me and said it was time to start getting ready for next season,” said Everette.

“With the new fitness center and the success we had last year, it was the easiest time I’ve had in my seven years getting guys to work in the weight room.”

One of PHS’ hardest workers has been senior quarterback Connor Ryan, who had an up-and-down season last fall.

“Connor did an excellent job, working hard in the winter and the summer,” said Everette. “He has gained a lot of confidence; I’m looking for him to have a big season.”

While the strong-armed Ryan may be the starter, Everette plans to give plenty of snaps to junior back-up Michael Olentine.

“Both kids are unquestioned leaders, Michael Olentine will play,” added Everette.

“They both bring different things to the table and we want the other teams to have to game plan for both of them.”

The Little Tigers have a one-two punch at running back in bruising 240-pound junior Trevor Barsamian and 5’8, 170-pound junior speedster Josh Gordon that will cause all kinds of problems for PHS’ foes.

“I know people are already calling them thunder and lightning,” said Everette. “Trevor is a big back; Josh is not so big. They have been playing together since 9th grade; they have figured out their own rotation. They will both get a lot of carries. I think we might be even better at running back than last year when Doug Borchert was our main back. We have variety.”

The Little Tigers have some options in their receiving corps which will feature senior DeQuan Holman together with juniors Doug Bryant, Nick Miranda, and Skye Ettin.

“DeQuan is definitely going to be there for us,” said Everette, whose passing offense will also get a lift from imposing tight end Brandon Merrill.

“Doug Bryant has been doing well and so has Nicky Miranda. We got Skye Ettin, a basketball star, to come out and he has been looking good.”

The PHS offensive line boasts a good mix of experience and talent. “We have some good kids coming back,” said Everette.

“We are led by Joey Giacalone, Tom Hines, Joe Kirkenir, and Jay Dwyer. It’s a pretty solid group. We have Billy Grenis, Dario Presepe, and Nick Zinsmeister battling for the fifth spot. We will be playing a lot of guys. They know if they aren’t starting, they may still get in and see a lot of action.”

Across the defensive front, the Little Tigers boast similar depth. “Our front seven is good; we lost some nice kids like Larry Berry and Borchert but we have some good guys coming back,” added Everette.

“Brandon will anchor the defensive line. Kirkenir (6’3, 235-pounds) and Stephen Perna (6’4, 265-pounds) are big kids; they give us size we haven’t had in the past. We have Giacalone, Presepe, Grenis, Andy Zinsmeister, and Brian Vieten at linebacker. We have size and experience.”

In the secondary, the Little Tigers will be utilizing a rotation featuring Holman, Miranda, Bryant, Ettin, and Gordon.

Everette knows that the team’s depth doesn’t guarantee a return trip to the playoffs.

“We need to have the same sacrifice and dedication that we had last year,” maintained Everette.

“Individually, we don’t have a lot of superstars but if the kids play hard together, we can be tough to stop.”

PHS faces a tough test in its season opener as it hosts Nottingham on September 13.

“Jon Adams always has tough kids who play hard,” said Everette, referring to the Nottingham coach.

“We beat them 3-0 last season; it was a hard-fought game. Their kids have been going on the blogs, saying our win was a fluke. We have those things posted in our locker room. We want to prove that we are one of the top teams in the CVC [Colonial Valley Conference]; it will be a tough, physical game. It will give us a good opportunity for us to see where we are.”

And it could also give the Little Tigers a sense of where they may be going this fall.

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