Princeton Community head coach Jared Maners has preached taking things one week at a time all season.
That mantra is now being put to the test, with the Tigers (3-5) out of Big Eight contention, and learning of their opening round sectional opponent, No. 1 Evansville Memorial. First, a trip to Vincennes Lincoln (6-2) is on the docket, come this Friday. Princeton will be looking to snap a four-game losing skid, that began September 14 at the hands of rival Gibson Southern.
"We've done a nice job of having that camaraderie in the sense of we're all in this together. Nobody's going to quit on anybody. At the end of the day I love these kids. We still got an opportunity this week to get four wins, and that's what our main focus is, to go beat Vincennes on the road. We want to come away with a win there and then we'll put our focus on Memorial," Maners said.
The last two times these teams have met, points have come in abundance. Lincoln won last year 46-12, Princeton the year before that 49-48. Lincoln head coach Levi Salters sees no reason this year will be any different, as both teams have offenses that can put up points, and yards, in a hurry.
"A couple years back there was a lot of scoring. There was a lot of scoring going on both ways. I think both teams are going to want to play spread. Both teams are going to get up and down the field and put some points on the board with a lot of yardage," Salters said.
Just as Princeton's previous opponent, Mt. Vernon, had in Sam Thomas, Vincennes Lincoln also has a special offensive player in Spencer Coronna. Corrona will line up everywhere, receiver, running back and even quarterback.
"He's really good first of all. They do so many things to highlight what he is. He's an athlete, he's not just a receiver. He can run the football, throw the football, they put him at quarterback probably 30 percent of the snaps, which is tough because then he's a run-pass option threat," Maners said.
Indeed the Lincoln offense is explosive, and has been putting up the numbers to back that up. During the five-game win streak that the Alices are currently riding, they've put up an average of 40.8 points per game. The last two games combined they have scored 108 points. This will be the second straight week where the Tiger defense will be dealing with a team that can put points on the board quickly.
For Princeton, getting a victory will start and end with cutting down on mistakes, including penalties and not punching the ball into the end-zone when they are inside the opponents 20-yard line. Both of these areas are things Maners is trying to get his team to improve on.
"The biggest thing with us man is we got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. I think we're a good football team. It's complete self-destruction on our part. 148 yards in penalties (against Mt. Vernon), those types of stats standout the most. That's crazy to me," Maners said.
Nonetheless, Salters still has his concerns about Princeton's offense as well. The Tigers still feature one of the top rushing attacks in the area. They also have a big, physical offensive line.
"I think they're pretty strong up front. They got good size on their offensive and defensive line. The (Zach) Dove kid, he's a big, physical player on both sides of the ball. Then you got the (Devonte) Hardiman kid, he's a good running back as well. They're about 50-50 pass-run, but we would say their strength is up front for sure," Salters said.
The Tigers are averaging 167.6 yards per game on the ground. Hardiman has 732 yards and his backfield counterpart Darrion Madison has 463 yards as well. Maners hopes to get back to trying to establish the run this week, against what is an athletic Vincennes Lincoln defense.
"They're really athletic on the defensive line. They are fast they got good athleticism, they cover ground real well. They're linebackers are big solid kids. Defensive backs are all the guys that play offense for them. They make big plays to get themselves off the field," Maners said. "I think the number one thing we're going to have to do is be able to run the football. We just have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone once we get down there."
Kickoff in Vincennes will be at 6:30 p.m. CT.