For the second straight year, a Gibson County high school football team was without a star starting quarterback for the sectional opening contest.

After last season when Isaac Sellers was absent from Gibson Southern's sectional opening loss, the Princeton Community High School Tigers were without star starting quarterback Maleek Hardiman for Friday night's sectional contest against the Hatchets at Washington High School.

The Tigers went from favorites to underdogs when the news came out and the Hatchets held on to win, 32-15.

"We made too many mistakes," said Tigers first year head coach Jared Maners. "It's been that way all year long. We've tried to minimize them every week. We'd focus on one thing and make a mistake in something else. I'm still proud of my kids. Making mistakes is part of the game, we just make too many to give ourselves opportunities to win games. The more disciplined teams are the ones that win."

Scoring opened late in the first quarter when the Hatchets scored on a 60-yard passing play to go up 7-0 after 12 minutes of play.

The Tigers answered late in the second quarter with 2:42 to play before the intermission when startng running back Devonte Hardiman found the endzone at the end of a 29-yard rush. Drew Robb hit the PAT and the Tigers and Hatchets were tied at 7-7.

What looked like a tie game at halftime quickly changed when the Hatchets added their second score of the night right before halftime. With a missed PAT, the game was a 6-point difference at 13-7 at the half.

The Hatchets took possession to open the third quarter and slowly drove down the field. The Tigers forced a stop to have the Hatchets attempt a 43-yard field goal. The kick from Hatchet Soloman Davis was short, but a roughing the kicker penalty was called and the Hatchets were set up with a first down and 12 yards to go. Dalton Ervin finished off the six minute, 53 second drive with a 9-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good and the Hatchets led 19-7.

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The Hatchets forced the Tigers to turnover the ball and scored on their second possession of the second half, a six yard passing touchdown from Jose Mejias to Wes Edwards. The PAT was good and the Hatchets led 26-7.

The Tigers started marching down the field late in the third quarter that started with an Adrian Madison kickoff return.

Devonte Hardiman started pushing the ball down field, hand offs coming from sophomore Gerit Bock, making his QB debut in Maleek Hardiman's absence. The drive ended with 11:13 to play in the fourth quarter when Bock hit an open Devonte Hardiman for a 2-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point conversion was good, a Bock pass to Corbin Wilkerson and the Tigers trailed 16-15.

Princeton forced Washington to punt, but Bock threw an interception that was returned to the 2-yard line. The Hatchets scored two plays later on a 2-yard rush to go up 32-15, the final score.

The Tigers once again marched down the field, but the drive ended in another Bock interception and the Hatchets ran the clock down to pick up the sectional victory.

"We didn't wrap up on a few plays," Maners said. "They scored on us by getting behind us on blown plays. The penalty on the field goal attempt hurt us. I don't blame the kid for giving effort, but you know the rules. Too many mistakes."

Maners was also impressed with his future QB's performance in his debut.

"Maleek tore a ligament in his ankle so we threw Bock in," Maners said. "He's going to be a good one down the road. I'm proud of him. He can sling it and I think he has leadership qualities. He gave us the best shot on a week's notice and I'm excited for the future with him. Of course we'll miss Maleek. I'm proud of his effort this year."

The Tigers end the 2017 campaign, Maners' first with the Tigers, with a 3-7 record.

"It's been a great year," Maners said. "It's been a learning experience. I'll put my head in the book for the offseason and we've got a huge chunk of this team returning. I'm proud of this team and I'll never forget this group, especially the seniors.

"I loved this year. I wouldn't want to be around any other kids, administrators or bosses. It's going to take a good offseason, but we've got high hopes for next year," Maners added.

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