In their own class, Princeton Community football men are winners.
Shaking off losses to 5A teams Evansville North and Terre Haute North their first two games, the Tigers opened their final Big Eight Conference season with Friday night’s 24-7 win at potential 3A sectional foe Washington.
“Our guys worked hard in practice all week, bought into our game plan, and now they’re excited to win our Big Eight opener,” said Coach Jared Maners, whose Tigers will seek a second win at 7 p.m. Friday hence when they host Mount Carmel for the last time in the foreseeable future.
It’ll be a battle of teams who stand unbeaten in the Big Eight. Mount Carmel, to play an all-Illinois schedule in seasons after this, stands 2-0 altogether after the past Friday’s 30-24 win over Mount Vernon.
Washington, beaten by the Tigers a seventh straight year, stands 0-2 in the league and will take an 0-3 record to North Daviess, whose Cougars have gone unbeaten in three games by collectively outscoring their foes 112-2. To be sure, all three wins have come against Class A teams like themselves.
The senior duo of quarterback Gerit Bock and wide receiver Braden Matthews led the offense at Washington. Bock went unintercepted while completing 14 of 25 passes for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns, both to Matthews, whose 7 catches brought 168 yards. Junior Dominic Hardiman caught 6 passes for 112 yards. Junior Ben Heidenreich rushed 93 yards in 13 carries and Bock 46 in 12 as the Princetons amassed 428 yards of offense in 53 plays while allowing just 211 in 61.
“Our defense played really well. We were able to keep the ball in front of us,” Maners said.:”Joe Koberstein played well at middle linebacker. Everybody showed improvement from the first two games.
“Our only negative was shooting ourselves in the foot a few times with penalties.”
The Tigers never trailed. Not quite 7 ½ minutes had been played when Bock scored on a 3-yard run and junior Cole Hurt converted. They took a 14-0 lead five minutes before halftime when Bock hit Matthews with an 18-yard scoring pass and Hurt again converted. “Braden made that catch in the deep left corner of the end zone,” Maners said.
It became 17-0 the third quarter's last 40 seconds when Hurt hit a 25-yard field goal after the defense forced a fumble. Washington moved within 17-7 with 10 minutes 46 seconds left in the fourth when Trey Reed hit Jacob Carrico with a 14-yard pass and Seth Holtsclaw kicked the extra point.
The Tigers responded when, with 6:41 left, Matthews turned Bock’s pass into a 61-yard touchdown and Hurt converted. “We slipped Braden up the middle on a route and he got wide-open,” Maners said
“Braden (playing safety) made an interception late the second quarter after Washington had moved to our 20.”
The Hatchets, who have just 30 players on their roster, with several starting on both offense and defense, were held to 121 yards in 36 rushes. Reed’s 12 carries netted 53 yards, while Dalton Ervin carried 14 times for 33. Reed, like Bock, threw 25 passes. But the Tigers allowed just 11 completions for 90 yards.
Now the Tigers will seek to beat Mount Carmel a third straight year. “Our goals include winning the last Big Eight championship,” said Maners. “We know we must keep improving, and we can.”