MT. VERNON - Needing to snap a 3-game losing streak, the Princeton Community High School Tiger football team traveled to Mt. Vernon Jr/Sr High School to take on the Wildcats who were having Homecoming festivities.
The Tigers played spoilers and after a shootout first half that saw a 29-28 PCHS lead heading into halftime, the Tigers pitched a second half shutout en route to a 62-28 road victory.
“We game planned against their best player in the first half to take him away,” said first year Tigers head coach Jared Maners. “We knew they were going to have to beat us with another player, and they did. Credit to them. We got some things fixed at halftime defensively. We mixed up the fronts that messed up their front line and that gave us some good looks. They came out and fired right back at us and credit to our kids for pitching a shutout in the second half and getting things done.”
The Tigers came out and scored on their first three possessions of the contest. The first score was a jet sweep to Corbin Wilkerson with a good PAT from Drew Robb and was followed by a 4th down and nine score when quarterback Maleek Hardiman found Cory Bustos in the end zone.
After Robb hauled in an interception on the following Wildcat drive, Hardiman fired a past to Wilkerson for an 11-yard touchdown score and after a successful 2-point conversion, a Darrion Madison rush, the Tigers were up 21-0 with 5:02 to play in the first.
The Wildcats answered on their following drive with a 47 yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Rhett Snodgrass. Mt. Vernon’s Xavier Angel hit the PAT and the Wildcats were back to within two scores, 21-7.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Maleek Hardiman dashed for a 47-yard touchdown with 3:30 to play in the first quarter and also rushed in the 2-point conversion for a 29-7 Princeton lead.
Mt. Vernon’s Sam Thomas received the following kickoff and returned it 75 yards for the third touchdown in 28 seconds and after missed 2-point conversion, the Wildcats trailed 29-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs five yards away from the end zone that set up a safety with 8:39 to play before half for a 29-15 Princeton advantage.
After receiving the kickoff, the Wildcats marched down field and Snodgrass found another open receiver for a touchdown just two minutes later. Angel hit the PAT and the Wildcats were within a touchdown, 29-22.
Mt. Vernon forced the Tigers to punt on their next two possessions and with 31.2 seconds left before halftime, the Widlcats scored again on a 3-yard rush from running back Preston Tolbert. The PAT was no good and the Wildcats trailed by one point, 29-28, at halftime.
After some halftime adjustments, the Tigers held Mt. Vernon scoreless for the remainder of the game while Maleek Hardiman scored three more times in the third quarter with rushes of 66 yards, 18 yards and 30 yards. The Tigers failed a 2-point conversion and Robb hit one and missed one PAT for a 48-28 Tiger advantage at the end of the third quarter.
“I told Maleek Halftime that I don’t know if he had been tackled yet,” Maners said. “We gave him a heavy load in the third quarter and again, I don’t know if they tackled him in the third quarter either.”
Hardiman continued to tear apart the Wildcats with a pick-6 with 11:23 to play in the contest. Robb hit the PAT and the Tigers led 55-28. With 7:40 to play, the Tigers found the end zone one last time when Wilkerson rushed 37-yards for a touchdown. Cole Hurt lined up for the PAT and put it in between the pipes resulting in the 62-28 final.
The Tigers played with three subs filling in for some sickness and injury in Adrian Madions, who “had a heck of a game,” AJ Etolen and Corbin Wilkerson playing some defense.
“All three subs stepped in and played their butts off,” Maners said. “I’m proud of those kids. They have played varsity all year long, we knew we would be fine. We had to coach on the fly, but we got it done.”
The Tigers, now 3-4 on the year, wrap up the regular season next Friday at home for senior night by taking on the visiting Vincennes Lincoln Alices starting at 7 p.m. CDT.
“It’s a big test,” Maners said of the Alices who carry a 8-1 record into next week’s contest. “They have a great quarterback and receiver. Defensively they’re sound. We’ll have to find a way to keep ourselves in it. I can’t wait to see them.”