By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Princeton football team has four players who weigh at least 300 pounds.
None stands out more than Corey Harsanyi.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound senior lineman was an All-Mountain State Athletic Conference performer last season, and a preseason All-Class AAA performer entering 2013.
Not that he is concerned with any type of recognition.
“Individual awards don’t mean much to me,” he said.
What matters to Harsanyi is winning games, something the Tigers have struggled to do in recent seasons, combining to win just eight games over the last three years, including a 2-8 mark in 2012.
His goal this year is a turnaround season for the Tigers.
“Win football games,” he said. “Optimism is high.”
No wonder. The work to improve began after last season, with as many as 85 students participating in offseason workouts under Randy Peek, who is in his second season as head coach of the Tigers.
“We have been working all year long since November, everybody has been coming and been committed, working on it every day,” Harsanyi said. “We want to win, this is the last year I will play football maybe so I want to have a good season.”
Last year wasn’t a season to remember for Princeton in a lot of ways. Peek took over as head coach from Ted Spadaro during the first week of practice, and the Tigers had to adjust to the changes.
“It was an adjustment period, but Randy is a good coach and we all knew him from somewhere so we adjusted quickly,” said Harsanyi, who, like many of the Tigers, played for Peek at Princeton Middle School.
Princeton will open this season with Shady Spring on Friday, and these Tigers have undergone what Peek has called ‘a transformation’ from an offseason working in the weight room, not only producing stronger players, but even larger linemen who are quicker on their feet.
“We have a lot of speed,” Harsanyi said. “Everybody is looking good, everybody is looking faster, our 40 times are faster than last year, we are bigger and stronger than last year, we are going to look good.”
They hope to play good too. Peek expects it from Harsanyi.
“He was All-MSAC last year. He is 6-foot-3, 315 pounds and he squats 500 and benches 300 something, and he is a force to be reckoned with,” Peek said. “Against GW (George Washington last year), we didn’t play very well, but he was driving people downfield.
“We moved the ball on them, we are just happy he is back and he is doing a great job for us.”
It’s not just Harsanyi. Two other senior starters, center Christian Marshall and tackle Nick Wood also return to the offensive line, along with newcomers Isaiah Edwards and Tyler Mullins, who has been banged up in the preseason.
While Princeton is loaded with speedy players, it’s up to the offensive line to make it happen for them, even if they often don’t get the credit.
“I think we are going to have a great offensive line,” Harsanyi said. “We have three seniors on the offensive line so I feel pretty good about it...
“I guess just don’t take plays off, we don’t get much credit for anything, but the best you can do is play well.”
Lining up behind Harsanyi will be quarterback Jay Palmer, who is in his second season as signal-caller. Add speedy Tahj Sho-Johnson and hard-charging Devin Allen, and the Tigers could have be a prolific offense.
“(Palmer) was just young, he was a young quarterback,” said Harsanyi, who will also see action on the defensive line. “He has improved a lot, he has had more reps and working on getting bigger and stronger, he looks really good...
“I feel like we will put a lot of points on the board.”
They’ll need to against the usual MSAC gauntlet, including four preseason top 10 teams in consecutive weeks after opening games with Shady Spring and Bluefield. Two of those games will be on the road to the Charleston area, which is nothing unusual for Princeton, although the Tigers do have six home dates this year at Hunnicutt Stadium.
“We don’t take any game lightly, every game is a hard game,” Harsanyi said. “We don’t have any easy games on our schedule....It is not easy having to travel everywhere we go, but you can’t make excuses.”
Princeton has reportedly impressed in a pair of scrimmages, at Nicholas County and against Nitro in the MSAC Jamboree in Charleston on Saturday, both of which Harsanyi was anxious to play to get back on the field.
“Just get back to playing football,” he said, during Princeton’s football picture day early this month. “It has been a year since we have played football.”
While Shady Spring is on tap on Friday, Mercer County rival Bluefield lurks the following week. Harsanyi isn’t worried about the Beavers yet, but does recall last year’s entertaining contest, which saw Princeton fall into a large deficit, but rally late and lose in a shootout 52-44.
“Disappointment really,” said Harsanyi, of his reaction from that game. “Getting beat and coming so close to winning, we played so terrible in the first half, it was disappointing. We expected to do better than we did.
“We started playing better in the second half, started putting points on the board and play better defensively, but it wasn’t enough.”
Four years of football at Princeton will come to an end this fall for Harsanyi, who always knew his football would be his sport. Of course, when you’re as big as he is, it’s a pretty easy choice.
“It is just something I have always wanted to do. I knew I was going to play high school football,” said Harsanyi, who would consider offers to play college football. “It has been an honor to play here at Princeton for four years, it is going to be sad to see me leave, I will make the best of it.”
The ‘best’ would be to be the best. Harsanyi is dreaming big.
“We can’t set our sights any lower than a state championship,” he said.
— Contact Brian Woodson: firstname.lastname@example.org