PRINCETON — Things began chivalrous on Friday night, but as the game between Princeton Community and Phalen Leadership Academy progressed, trash talk and scuffles ensued, tempers flared, and penalty flags became as commonplace as a tackle.
By the end of regulation of a 34-18 Tiger victory, two Falcon defenders were ejected due to late hits — one along the Phalen Leadership Academy sideline, the other on a final snap in which the Tigers kneeled the ball in victory formation. The two sides combined for 26 penalties for 234 yards, the vast majority coming in the second half (with 18 penalties called against the Falcons).
Princeton Community Head Football Coach Jared Maners was less than enthusiastic postgame about his team’s discipline throughout the contest. He felt as if at times they succumbed into the Falcons’ extracurriculars.
“I’m not impressed,” Maners said. “I think we got in our own way tonight mentally more than physically. Everything we did positive we erased with something negative. Just not thrilled with the game overall.”
His Tigers (1-3), a group who’s struggled sustaining drives through the team’s first three games of the season, came out clicking in the run game, and even in the passing game with senior quarterback Malakye Moody under center.
Their first touchdown of the contest came from Moody, who connected with senior Dominic Hardiman for a 36-yard touchdown down the Tiger sideline — Moody’s first touchdown toss of the season.
A couple series later the Tigers were threatening again, and were in the red zone following a big carry by senior running back Ben Heidenreich, and a personal foul on the Falcons.
Just a play later Moody connected with junior Colton Smith for a 10-yard touchdown, Moody’s second of the night.
The Tiger defense stood strong on the ensuing possession, and halted the Falcons on an attempted fourth down conversion. Six plays later they’d punch it in on a nine-yard rushing score by Heidenreich, putting the Tigers ahead 21-0 just before halftime.
Seemingly in the driver’s seat and looking to tack on another scores — and a running clock — the Tigers received the ball in the second half and quickly marched down the field. Heidenreich capped off a 56-yard drive with a Heidenreich 13-yard rushing score.
Now ahead 27-0, it felt as if the ballgame was out of reach. And then the antics ensued.
Phalen’s Dorian Watson broke away for an 80-yard score, and the Falcons recovered the ensuing squib kick, giving them a glimmer of hope. Watson would add a pair of scores in the second half, en route to a 226 rushing yard night for the dynamic sophomore playmaker.
After virtually every play from then on, words were exchanged, an extra shove or two after the whistle would occur, and on quite a few occasions, late hits.
“That’s all of the mental stuff,” Maners spoke of the scuffles and allowed scores. “We let all of that stuff affect us and we stopped playing our keys and stopped playing football. We forgot what our jobs were and let our emotions get the best of us. We can’t win games that way.”
Suddenly just a 27-18 ballgame early into the fourth quarter, Princeton Community fans in attendance assuredly became nervous, hoping their beloved Tigers could piece together one last drive to close out the game. On their next drive, they’d do just that.
Heidenreich capped off a 65-yard score with a goal-line rushing score, putting Princeton Community ahead for good.
It was far from pretty, but picking up your first win of the season’s always a good feeling. Maners however, felt more discouraged than anything. He made one assurance — whatever problems his Tigers exhibited on Friday, they’ll be fixed.
“Everything we did positive tonight we erased with something negative,” Maners said. “The scoreboard doesn’t do it justice. We could have hung a big one tonight, had a running clock and been out of here by 8:15. Instead we let a team hang around that didn’t deserve to hang around. Like I said man, I’m not thrilled. We’ll get it cleaned up, I know that.”
Moody ended with a career-high 185 passing yards in his first career start, with Hardiman hauling in his first 100-yard receiving game of the season and a touchdown. Heidenreich set a season-high rushing mark with 169 yards and three scores.
Fresh off their first victory of the season, the Tigers will look to make it two straight with a victory over South Spencer (1-3) on Friday at Tiger Stadium with kickoff set for 7 p.m. On paper, it should be a very winnable game for Maners’ group — as long as they keep their emotions in check.
“If we play like we did tonight, we’ll be in trouble,” Maners said. “We’ve seen them on film, they have some athletes. The Bartlett kid’s good at quarterback, we’ll have to really play or we’ll be in trouble.”
- Notes: Princeton Community honored Richard Lankford and Pete Swanson, two local media icons who covered the Tigers for decades. Plaques honoring each of the Southern Indiana legends will be hung in the new Princeton Community press box.
The Tigers also honored their seniors for Senior Night. Among the seniors honored included: Hardiman, Joshua Spillman, Jevin Huey, Moody, Joe Koberstein, Ethan Cochren, Cole Hurt, Heidenreich, Briar Christy, Caleb Hiatt, Noah Averette, and Tristen Feagley.
P — 7 14 6 7 — 34
PLA — 0 0 12 6 — 18
1Q: P: Moody 36-yard pass to Hardiman (Hurt kick) 7-0 Princeton Community.
2Q: P: Moody 10-yard pass to Smith (Hurt kick) 14-0 Princeton Community.
Heidenreich 9-yard rush (Hurt kick) 21-0 Princeton Community.
3Q: Heidenreich 13-yard rush (PAT blocked) 27-0 Princeton Community.
PLA: Watson 80-yard rush (conversion failed) 27-6.
PLA: Watson 56-yard rush (conversion failed) 27-12.
4Q: PLA: Watson 23-yard rush (conversion failed) 27-18.
P: Heidenreich 1-yard rush (Hurt kick) 34-18.
Next up: Friday, Sept. 18 vs. South Spencer at 8 p.m.