Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 1, 2013

Princeton Tigers seeing hard work pay off

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — One minute into the first game of the season, Princeton Senior High linebacker Nick Wood saw the football pop up into the evening sky, jarred loose from Shady Spring’s fullback.

Wood grabbed the pigskin and smashed his way 10 yards for the Tigers’ second touchdown in their 69-0 debut win at Hunnicutt Stadium on Friday night.

After the final whistle, the senior wasn’t done with his exertion.

In the locker room, surrounded by a laughing circle of teammates, he dropped to the concrete floor and gave them 70 pushups.

“My teammates had a little bet about how many touchdowns we would score,” he explained, “and I would do 10 pushups for every touchdown. (I did) a quick 70 right after the game.”

Asked if that was a workout, Wood said, “I was tireder in the game, definitely.”

Princeton head coach Randy Peek said about Woods’ scoring play, “We caused that fumble. It wasn’t just a fumble, we caused it. When you get after it and go 100 percent, good things are going to happen.”

He said that in Princeton’s two scrimmages and in Friday night’s season debut, “our offensive and defensive lines are really getting a good push.”

Peek, who planned to start his Labor Day holiday by breaking down film of the action with his coaching staff, said, “Defensively, we were a little upset with the coverages. They (Shady Spring) did a few things we weren’t sure (about).

“But we liked the tackling. We’ve come a long way since last year on our tackling, and it’s just going to get better. We had some big licks tonight. That’s another thing we’ve been missing.

“And it came together. We like 11-people football and I saw a lot of that tonight.”

Austin Fulp had a good night for Princeton on Friday, recovering a punt that a Shady Spring returner had muffed, and later taking an interception back 25 yards. Tahj Sho-Johnson had five tackles and a fumble recovery.

The second-team defense preserved the shutout on the last play of the game, when Shady Spring completed a pass across the middle, but the receiver was brought down on the 2 yard line.

Tackling drills were a staple of almost every football practice since Peek and his staff took over the program last year. Weight lifting, long a trademark of the Princeton football program, and conditioning were emphasized even more.

“We put them through the grind in the offseason,” Peek said.

Quarterback Jay Palmer, a junior, said his team had committed to “every day in the weight room, from Dec. 4 all the way ’til now. Every day, working hard, never slacking, and just doing our best every day.”

Palmer ran for 77 yards and two scores, and completed two of his three passes, including a 31-yard scoring toss. Personally, he’d like to air it out more.

“My team likes to run a lot,” he said after the game. “Preferably, I like to pass. And that makes us a more complex team, which makes it harder on the defense.”

Peek said about Palmer, “He did a nice job. A couple of the passes, our receivers did a nice job. He didn’t actually put the ball where we wanted it, but our receivers made great catches.

“You know, it’s a learning experience for him. He ran the offense and controlled our team and did a nice job, for a young quarterback.”

Sho-Johnson, who ran for 147 yards, said about his teammates, “All of them were working hard, keep moving, and just doing their best.”

Many of the Princeton players noted, however, that there is plenty more work to do, especially with the Bluefield Beavers coming to visit Hunnicutt Stadium this Friday night.

Bluefield launched its season with a 60-36 win against Graham, and coach Fred Simon said, “... hopefully, we’ll get better.”

Sho-Johnson said, “We have started out really well, but we’ve got more to improve on for the next game, next week.”

— Contact Tom Bone at