Sprint Football: Princeton loses overtime thriller
After the sprint football team scored a field goal on its overtime drive against Post University on Friday evening, it was all up to its defense. If the Tigers could hold Post scoreless, Princeton would have its first victory since 1999.
On the first play, Post gained no yards, but on the second play, Post quarterback Shawn Boose connected with receiver Daniel Awwad for 23 yards, moving the Eagles to the two-yard line. The field was tense as the Tigers waited to see what Post would do. Post attempted a rush up the middle, but as several Princeton players tackled the carrier, the ball popped loose. Suddenly, all players on the field were in a massive pileup, each team fighting desperately for possession; if Princeton recovered, the long-awaited victory would be theirs. But after much deliberation, the referees ruled that Post had control. On the very next play, Boose ran for a five-yard touchdown, giving the visitors a 32-29 win.
“We're going to come back out and keep fighting," head coach Stephen Everette said. "We've lost two games this season by a touchdown and we lost tonight by three points, so if you do the math, and we keep chopping into these losses the way we have, that means we're supposed to win next week.”
The game had started slowly for the Tigers, who could not move the ball on their first drive and gave Post possession at the Princeton 25-yard line. A few rushes later, Post scored the first touchdown of the game, but missed the ensuing extra point.
Princeton struggled throughout the first quarter, punting twice and throwing an interception. Following the pick, the Eagles scored on a 52-yard pass from Boose to tight end Robert Williams, ending the quarter with a 12-0 lead.
The Tigers' defense picked up some momentum early in the second quarter, forcing a safety, and then the offense drove for a field goal on the ensuing drive to bring Princeton's point total to five. Post scored a third touchdown near the end of the half, but the Tigers answered with one of their own, as senior receiver Ross Cadman made a leaping catch in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Jaison Zachariah.
Princeton blocked a Post field goal at the beginning of the third quarter, but an interception gave Post possession again; this time, the Eagles were able to capitalize for a touchdown, with a two-point conversion bringing the score to 26-12.
However, the Tigers' defense locked down while the offense kept pushing. Toward the end of the third quarter, freshman quarterback Joe Bush threw a 36-yard pass to Cadman for a touchdown, bringing the hosts within eight points. With 10 minutes, 45 seconds to play, Bush hit senior tight end John Wolfe for 27 yards and threw to senior running back Sean Conrad for a two-point conversion, tying the game at 26-26.
“I thought we threw the ball well tonight," said Cadman, who caught six passes for 78 yards. “Joe Bush had some really good throws, and when Jaison was in there, he played well too. The offense played really well tonight.”
Both teams traded punts for two possessions; Princeton threatened on its last drive, moving to midfield with two long passes before stalling with 1:29 to play. Starting from its own 32-yard line, Post moved deep into Princeton territory with two long plays, but then settled for a field-goal attempt with 11 seconds on the clock. Senior linebacker Bob Dougherty blocked the field goal attempt, Princeton's third block of the game, sending the game into the fateful overtime.
The Tigers performed well in the passing game, as Bush and Zachariah combined to throw for 252 yards, the team's most since 2007. However, they also threw three interceptions and had a few other potential picks dropped or nullified by penalties. “We have to stop throwing interceptions, me included, and just stay consistent in all aspects of the game,” Bush said.
In the course of its losing streak, Princeton had never before forced overtime or lost by as few as three points. Next week, Princeton will host Franklin Pierce, a young team in its debut season that has lost its first two games, though both were close.
“With the streak that we're trying to break, it's more than just the result of that game on the line every time we play,” senior receiver and captain Kees Thompson said in an email. “It adds to the weight of every success and every disappointment during the game ... we're proud of the fight we exhibited, but that's not enough for this team.”
“I was really proud of the team. We kept fighting, through four quarters and overtime,” Cadman said. “One of these next couple of weeks, everything's gonna click.”