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Football defeats Stetson 39–14 in season opener in Florida

<h5>The Tigers open their home calendar against Lehigh on Saturday.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Cipkh-8LBdo/?igshid=NTlmMWMyMzg%3D" target="_self">@princetonftbl/Instagram.</a></h6>
The Tigers open their home calendar against Lehigh on Saturday.
Courtesy of @princetonftbl/Instagram.

After finishing tied atop the Ivy League with Dartmouth last season, the Tigers football team (1–0 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) opened their season with a dominant 39–14 win at Stetson (2–1, 0–0 Pioneer) on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Looking to mimic their dominant 63–0 win over Stetson from a year ago and make a statement to start the season, Princeton ran onto the field fired up and ready to play physically. For a majority of the first half, however, an upset of the heavily favored Tigers looked to be a possibility. In fact, it was Stetson that drew first blood as their quarterback, Brady Meitz, dropped in a 60-yard touchdown to go up 7–0.

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With time winding down in the first quarter, Princeton answered with a long drive that ended with a powerful touchdown run by first-year running back Ryan Butler. On Stetson’s next drive to open up the second quarter, Meitz threw for another long score on a well-designed run-pass option that exposed the Princeton defense.

Even after Princeton tied the score with a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Blake Stenstrom to senior wide receiver Andrei Iosivas on the ensuing drive, there was still an air of uncertainty as the defense committed some uncharacteristic penalties, and rainy conditions caused the Tigers to have issues with handling the ball. With the score knotted at 14, Princeton looked to gain some control before going into halftime. A second Stenstrom to Iosivas connection and a safety from the Tigers’ defense was able to do just that, and the Tigers went to the locker room with a 22–14 lead.

In the second half, Princeton was able to ride the momentum they generated at the end of the first, and the defense finally came to life. To highlight their dominance, Princeton held Stetson scoreless on their last seven drives to close the game, with each drive ending in either a punt, interception, or forced fumble. The interception came from senior defensive back Ken Lim, and the fumble was caused by senior defensive lineman Michael Azevedo. The offense also kept rolling, with rushing touchdowns from both Butler and sophomore running back John Volker.

The game ended in a 39–14 victory for Princeton. On the defensive side, senior linebacker Joseph Bonczek led the charge with six tackles. On offense, Butler rushed for a pair, and Stenstrom finished with 256 yards and two touchdowns through the air to Iosivas.

“We’ve been communicating well and [we] trust each other. [Stenstrom] is also a humble guy and a hard worker so it’s easy to like him,” Iosivas wrote to the Daily Princetonian.

Additionally, when asked about the team’s mentality this season compared to the last, Iosivas said, “Every year we focus on the next game. That’s how it’s been since I got here as a freshman and nothing has changed. Everyone just needs to play hard and play smart. If we do that, we will be fine.”

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With that attitude in mind, the Tigers will look forward to returning home and welcoming their fans back to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24 against Lehigh (1–2, 1–0 Patriot), whom they defeated 32–0 last season.

Eric Lee is a senior writer for the Sports section at the ‘Prince’. He can be reached at ericlee@princeton.edu or on instagram @airic.lee.

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