Tigers hoping to play role of spoilers on Friday

Photo by Sarah Loesch/Daily Clarion

Princeton Community freshman Kaleb Ice (2) makes a tackle last week against Boonville.

Princeton Community football men will turn into spoilers if they win a doubleheader of sorts.

The Tigers, to travel with records of 1-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big Eight Conference, can become spoilers by winning Friday's 7 p.m. matchup in Mount Vernon, where the hosts await with records of 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big Eight's final season.

Should the Wildcats win Friday, they can become conference champions by winning their October 18 regular-season finale at Jasper.

"We've never won a Big Eight football title," said Coach Cory Brunson, who, inheriting a program that went winless in 2016, raised the Wildcats to 2-8 in 2017 and 5-5 last season, and now within reach of a first winning campaign since going 6-5 in 2010.

Friday will be both Homecoming and Senior Night for the Wildcats.

"Our previous three home games were in early-season, two early for those events," said Brunson, former Evansville Reitz quarterback who played two basketball seasons each for Missouri-Rolla and then the University of Southern Indiana.

"They have a really good offense, what with good receivers in Breckan Austin and Nick Curtis, plus a 235-pound quarterback (senior Rhett Snodgrass) who throws the ball well," said Princeton Coach Jared Maners, who nonetheless exudes optimism.

"We're a lot healthier than we've been," Maners said. "Briar Christy has been cleared (from concussion protocol) and is ready to play,"

"Jarrett Market did not play against Boonville (in a 48-7 Homecoming loss), but what we thought was a collarbone fracture was just a stinger," the coach said of the 140-pound senior who has played both offensively and defensively.

To be sure, at least two Tigers, and perhaps three, won't play.

"Kain Carroll (305-pound senior offensive guard) is out for the season due to his kneecap fracture.

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And Dominic Hardiman (junior receiver and deep threat) won't play this Friday because he won't have enough practices following his leg injury," Maners said.

"Whether Braden Matthews (senior who leads the team in receiving) plays football Friday will depend how far the soccer team goes in the Washington Sectional. If Braden isn't with us, Market will start as a receiver."

Defense is a Princeton focus this week.

"Our D-line played pretty well against Boonville," Maners said 260-pound senior Chance Anderson, 260-pound junior Noah Averette and 300-pound sophojmore Chamar McKinney.

"But our linebackers didn't make tackles, even though they were in the right place a lot of times. You must want to make the play, not let somebody else make it."

A pass rush will be needed.

"Mount Vernon likes to throw 28 to 30 timees a game. They remind us of Gibson Southern," said Maners, whose Tigers will face an experienced foe.

"Four or five of our offensive starters are three-year starters," Brunson said.

"Defensively, our linebackers and secondary people are returners.

"I know Princeton has had some injuries, but they have some athletic guys and they have good size up front,"

Snodgrass has completed 104 of 181 passes (57.5%) for 1,677 yards and 15 touchdowns around 7 interceptions.

Austin has made 45 catches for 694 yards (15.4 per grab) and 6 TDs, Curtis 36 for 559 yards (15.3 average) and 7 TDs.

Sophomore Brady Hook leads the run game with 391 yards and 8 TDs in 64 carries (8.2 average).

Recent history suggests this will be a high-scoring game.

Mount Vernon won 48-28 last October 5 at PCHS.

The Tigers won the previous five meetings, including 62-28 Oct. 6, 2017, in Mount Vernon.

Not only would the Tigers become spoilers and doubleheader victors by winning Friday, they'd join select company. The Wildcats' two losses have come against unbeaten teams, Heritage Hills romping 36-0 August 23 and Mount Carmel prevailing 30-24 two weeks later.

The Wildcats are fresh from a 38-14 non-league win at Scottsburg following a 39-28 win over Boonville.

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