BECKLEY — The Princeton Tigers football team kicked off its 2012 season Friday night, traveling to Beckley to take on the Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles.
The Eagles had put up 110 points and run wild on the Tigers' kick coverage in their previous two meetings and first year head coach Randy Peek knew that the key defensively was to emphasize work on special teams.
Not to mention, facilitating player physical conditioning, installing a new offense, implementing a new defense and many other things related to building a freshly inherited program.
Peek is in his first year at the helm, after long-time coach Ted Spadaro retired just before summer practice began.
What Peek learned, however, was that his team needs practice on form tackling and basic football fundamentals -- so many times the case early in the season with any team. A lot of topics are mere speculation early in the season like this.
Although the Tigers provided good kick coverage and containment all night long, which prevented the Eagles from breaking “the long one” on them, they couldn't quite muster the offensive output to keep up with the Eagles and fell by the score of 14-32, on a beautiful first night for high school football across the state.
The outing proved much better than previous contests with Woodrow and showed signs of improvement, but there is much work to be done.
The Eagles' Chase Hancock ran for two first half touchdowns and quarterback Andrew Johnson scored on two runs of his own, to outlast, outreach and out-produce the Tigers. Their big offensive line was key in churning up 383 rushing yards and another 97 yards through the air. Many times, Eagle runners were able to spin free of a would-be Tiger defender and squirt forward for additional yardage, a few times reaching pay-dirt in the process.
"The arm tackling killed us,” said Peek. “We didn't know if the Johnson kid would be playing, since he had missed a few scrimmages they participated in, but he did play and he did hurt us bad.”
Down two touchdowns near the end of the first quarter, with the Eagles driving deep into their own territory and threatening to drive the nail in the coffin, the Tigers' Nicholas Wood stepped in front of an errant Eagle pass, and provided a momentum swing that they seemed poised to capitalize on.
After driving the ball 57 yards, to the Eagles 30-yard stripe, the drive ended when QB Jay Palmer misfired on a fourth-and-nine.
The Eagles then took the ball and marched the 70 yards to stick it in with only 13 seconds remaining before halftime, making the score 0-19.
"That score really hurt us there at the end of the first half,” Peek said.
The Tigers came out of the field house poised to make a difference and took the ball 43 yards on 4 plays to provide their first score of the season, when junior Tahj Sho-Johnson busted loose on a 22-yard jaunt.
However the Eagles took command from that point forward and eventually just wore the Tigers defense down.
“Their work up front is ultimately what beat us,” Peek said. “Their backs were just able to run wild on us.”
The Tigers' Johnson finished the night with 133 yards on 15 carries and their only two scores.
“We have some work to do this next week,” Peek said. “But we've got some good talent, and we'll be alright down the road."
One can imagine that there will be a plethora of hitting and tackling drills going on this week in Princeton.
Princeton will be at it again, playing this Friday, at 7:30 p.m., at Bluefield.
P (0-1) 0 0 6 8 — 14
WW (1-0) 7 12 7 6 — 32
WW: Chase Hancock 5 run (Andrew Johnson kick)
WW: Hancock 6 run (kick fail)
WW: Johnson 1 run (pass fail)
P: Tahj Sho-Johnson 24 run (kick fail)
WW: Cole Williams 22 run (Johnson kick)
WW: Johnson 10 run (kick fail)
P: Sho-Johnson 1 run (Johnson run)
RUSHING — P: Sho-Johnson 15-133, Jay Palmer 13-50, Lamont Lee 1-4, Aaron Saunders 1-4, Devin Allen 1-(-5). WW: Johnson 20-130, Williams 8-104, Hancock 9-62, Ramon Edwards III 5-87.
PASSING — P: Sho-Johnson 6-15-0-1-48. WW: Johnson 6-13-0-1-97.
RECEIVING — P: Sho-Johnson 1-0, Saunders 2-9, Chad Wyrick 1-8, Brett Carroll 2-13, Zen Clements 1-9, Eric Paskowski 1-9. WW: Edwards III 3-12, Tyhler Cook 1-59, Hancock 1-18, Williams 1-8.
TURNOVERS — P: Nicholas Wood (INT). WW: Jacob Meadows (INT).