PRINCETON — If history is any indication, Princeton Community’s season can still be salvageable.
Just last season — in an incredibly similar predicament — the Tigers were able to right the ship late in the season, win a pair of playoff games and swing momentum right in their favor when most needed.
This year’s group is fully capable of the same, but the question becomes will they? Well, if they are, it has to begin with Friday night against Heritage Hills.
To date, the Tigers (2-6) have shown flashes of their capability, but have been barred — offensively in particular — by untimely penalties, turnovers and other mishaps to prevent them from converting drives into points on the board.
“Obviously we’d like to see that all come together one good time here just to prove we can do it and have our kids have something they can believe in going into the playoffs,” Princeton Community Football Coach Jared Maners said.
In turning that around, for this team, it has to start with their ground game. Maners has been creative with the run looks, devising jet sweeps for senior playmaker Jevin Huey, utilizing both senior Ben Heidenreich — more of an imposing runner — and sophomore Kaleb Ice, a change of pace back for the Tigers.
Now, it appears Maners has another tailback he has confidence in turning to.
Freshman back Reggie McIntyre exhibited flashes of his ability in last week’s 57-0 loss to Gibson Southern, racking up 45 yards rushing in the second half of the contest.
McIntyre, a 6-foot freshman still filling out his frame, made the most of his playing time with some impressive runs. One, reversing field for a 20-yard carry, a handful others where he proved incredibly difficult to bring down. It appears McIntyre’s debut was so successful that he earned a spot in the varsity rotation moving forward.
“He’s got a different gear, man,” Maners spoke of McIntyre. “He’s really shifty and he’s hard to tackle with blocks in front of him and those types of things. We’re going to give him a shot. He’s definitely not lacking in confidence. If he gets blocks, he’ll run it just as effective as anyone else.
“We’re still going to give Jevin Huey some carries out of the jet sweeps and those types of things, I think he ran it hard last week. But we’ll see where we go from there.”
The Tiger offense will be shorthanded on Friday as well. Freshman quarterback Christian Schafer is set to miss the contest with a concussion, setting senior quarterback Malakye Moody in line for the start.
Moody’s played in four games with Schafer sidelined, having converted 20-of-32 passes for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns under center.
Not your atypical Patriot groupNeedless to say, it’s been a down year for the Patriots (3-5), who aren’t as formidable as fans across the state have become accustomed to in the past.
Fresh off of an IHSAA Class 3A State Title berth, the Patriots have been tasked with replacing an awful lot of production from a 14-1 team. One thing hasn’t changed — their style of play.
Often lining up in a flexbone look — similar to what Tiger fans saw from Tell City just two weeks prior — the Patriots attack with a monotonous running attack from a variety of ball carriers.
“Absolutely, and they play extremely hard,” Maners said. “That’s one thing we’ve picked up on film, they play hard, they’re well-coached, and talent wise they’re just not over powering talent wise.
“But as far as a football team goes, they’re going to be well-coached in what they do and they’re going to play extremely hard. If you don’t match that, it’s going to be a long night on the scoreboard.”
Junior Luke Rickelman is often the featured ball carrier among the Patriot backfield, having rushed for 358 yards (8.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns this season.
Certainly not to be defined as a volatile offensive unit, the Patriots have rushed for just under 1,400 yards and scored 18.3 points per contest. Defensively, the Tigers should be well-matched if they can win the field position battle.
“We have to tackle keys, can’t do anything that shoots ourselves in the foot because it’s three yards and a cloud of dust all night,” Maners said. “That’s the big thing, we have to match their discipline, their physicality and how hard they play.”
Kickoff informationFriday, Oct. 16: Princeton Community vs. Heritage Hills at Tiger Stadium at 7 p.m.
As a reminder, tickets will not be purchasable at the gate, they must be purchased at Princeton Community High School’s Athletic Office prior to 3 p.m. on Friday.