By TOM BONE
The Princeton Tigers sent a message on Friday night. They're for real.
Princeton racked up 445 yards in total offense and rolled to a 69-0 shutout over the Tigers of Shady Spring High to open the season on Friday night at Anne S. Huntington Stadium.
The majority of fans in the home stands wore white in a “White Out” tribute to the late Princeton assistant coach Sam White, on a warm August evening.
Tahj Sho-Johnson rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns, and kicked nine extra points for Princeton.
Less than a minute into the game, on the third play from scrimmage, Princeton reached the end zone on a 12-yard burst by sophomore Jordan Jones.
Ten seconds later, the Princeton defense forced the left side of the Shady Spring line into its own backfield.
The football popped from the hands of Shady Spring’s Tyler Hanson and Princeton senior Nick Wood snatched it out of the air and rambled 10 yards for another score. Sho-Johnson’s extra point gave the home team a 14-0 lead.
Princeton quarterback Jay Palmer got untracked as the half wore on. He tossed a pass to senior Kirkland Perdue, who leaped high and fought his way downfield for a 31-yard scoring play.
Sho-Johnson scampered 25 yards untouched for the next score. Palmer added scoring runs of 56 and 8 yards, and Devin Allen returned a punt 67 yards to set up a 49-0 halftime lead.
The second half began with Shady Spring going four-and-out. A punt partially deflected by Princeton’s Zen Clements gave Princeton the ball at the Shady 24, and Sho-Johnson took it the distance on the next snap.
Princeton senior Billy Jack Varney powered for the next touchdown from 4 yards out.
The scoring parade ended on the second play of the fourth quarter. Sho-Johnson lined up to punt the ball, but saw the right side wide open and dashed down the home sideline for a 71-yard tally, leaving two Shady Spring defenders grasping air as he split between them.
Sho-Johnson said, “I wasn’t really supposed to run it, but I made up my mind to run it, because it was just wide open.”
He said about his mindset for the game, “I was really ready because of my teammates. They kept pushing me, telling me what to do. And I was happy just to help them out.”
Princeton head coach Randy Peek said about the
result, “It gives us a lot of confidence. They worked hard all during the off-season, and they deserved this.”
“They came out fired up and they got after them,” Peek said. “We like 11-people football and I saw a lot of that tonight.”
Palmer, who was 2 for 3 for 65 yards passing, said about the Princeton defense, “Everything they did was almost perfect, if not perfect.”
Shady Spring’s 6-foot-4 quarterback Timmy Culicerto, who played last year for Woodrow Wilson High, threw for 134 yards, but 54 of them came against Princeton substitutes in the second half.
The visitors’ leading rusher, Jonathan Hardy, contributed 76 yards but it took him 22 carries to get there.
Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto said, “From the get-go, big plays from Princeton. ... We turned the ball over to them at the 5, and it went downhill from there.”
He said his team is “a young bunch that’s going to have to fight through these mistakes and get better. And Princeton, they’ve been there. They’re coming on the top side now. They’ve been on this side for a little while.
“Princeton is a good ballclub. I mean, there’s no doubt. I think they’re going to have a good season.”
Princeton hosts county rival Bluefield next Friday, while Shady Spring will play its home opener against Logan.
Culicerto said, “We’re going to have to get better at just about every spot.”
Peek said, “We’ll enjoy it tonight, and we’ll get back to work (Saturday).”
Wood said, “We just came out there on the first play and stroked them. I guess that first drive wore them down, so I guess that’s the strategy every week. Next week, we’re going to do the same thing, so the kids across the county had better be ready.”
— Contact Tom Bone at
At Hunnicutt Stadium
Shady Spring.............0 0 0 0 — 0
Princeton.................21 28 14 6 — 69
PSHS: Jordan Jones 12 run (Tahj Sho-Johnson kick), 11:10
PSHS: Nick Wood 10 run with fumble recovery (Sho-Johnson kick), 10:56
PSHS: Kirkland Perdue 31 pass from Jay Palmer (Sho-Johnson kick), 1:12
PSHS: Sho-Johnson 25 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 11:52
PSHS: Palmer 56 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 8:47
PSHS: Palmer 8 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 4:00
PSHS: Devin Allen 67 punt return (Sho-Johnson kick), 1:09
PSHS: Sho-Johnson 24 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 10:48
PSHS: Billy Jack Varney 4 run (Sho-Johnson kick), 6:36
PSHS: Sho-Johnson 71 run (pass failed), 11:00
RUSHING — SS, Tyler Hanson 4-5, Jonathan Hardy 22-76, Tim Culicerto 5-3, John Lively 3-15. PSHS, Devin Allen 3-35, Jordan Jones 2-30, Jay Palmer 5-77, Tahj Sho-Johnson 6-147, Aaron Saunders 1-20, Logan Baker 3-1, Billy Jack Varney 4-17, Turner Nelson 1-(-1), Christian Shafer 4-8, Je’nye Hearn 3-5, Nick Mason 2-8, Zach Standifur 1-33.
PASSING — SS, T. Culicerto 12-21-134 yds., 1 intc., 0 TD; Jarod Cline 2-3-16-0-0. PSHS, Palmer 2-3-65-0-0.
RECEIVING — SS, Hardy 1-9, Steven Chhabra 3-49, Chase DeMoss 1-3, Tyler Hanson 2-19, Jordan Meadows 2-16, Matthew Plumley 1-19, Andrew Green 2-19, Jacob Hartsog 1-9, Cody Richmond 1-7. PSHS, Zen Clements 1-41, Kirkland Perdue 1-24.