By NICK BROCKMAN
for the Daily Telegraph
ST. ALBANS —
With the ground game going strong, the Princeton football team ran behind its strength and onto victory at St. Albans Friday night.
Three different Tigers running backs rushed for 95 yards or more as Princeton took command early and controlled throughout at Crawford Field in an eventual 47-14 victory on St. Albans' homecoming.
"I thought the first half we could have gone and put it away, but our kids got a little lax," Tigers coach Randy Peek said. "We let them hang around, but they fought in more ways than one, I believe, but they hung in there. They've been in a lot of adversity and they're fighters, and we were happy with the win tonight."
In between the football plays, the "fighting" Peek alluded to included many heated second-half moments, including the ejection of one Princeton player. The tension built as Princeton increased its lead and a second-half onside kick did not seem to sit well with the St. Albans squad.
"I think that led to some of the chippiness, and I apologize to [St. Albans coach Steve Stoffel Jr.]," Peek said. "Because that's not us and that's not us the way we acted some times tonight."
The two teams combined for more than two dozen penalties and 200 penalty yards with many the result of personal fouls. Still, the Princeton running game took center stage in determining the game's outcome.
Princeton standout running back Tahj Sho-Johnson finished with 13 carries for 142 yards with three touchdowns. Fellow Tigers running back Jordan Jones carried eight times for 111 yards and two scores, while quarterback Jay Palmer added 95 rushing yards and one touchdown. In total, Princeton finished with 431 rushing yards.
"All of us were playing as a team," Sho-Johnson said of the balanced effort. "All of my teammates came in and started playing hard."
Peek said after losing four games in a row, Princeton (3-4) returned to its early season form in the running attack against St. Albans (1-5).
"That's what we worked on all week and this flexbone [offense] if people will be patient and we get to the edge a lot, that opens up the middle," he said. "That happened early in the year. We were getting three guys with 100 yards, and then we kind of laxed and we ran into a tougher schedule also."
Princeton totaled six rushing touchdowns, three in each half. Palmer provided the seventh score with the Tigers' lone completion of the night, a 53-yard scoring pass to Jones.
As the Princeton offense excelled, St. Albans struggled to find a rhythm.
The Red Dragons opened the second half with the ball and appeared to cut the 14-point deficit to a single score when Kevin Watkins rushed 71 yards for a TD. However, a holding penalty on St. Albans negated the run and three plays later, the Red Dragons were forced to punt. Princeton took advantage by scoring on the ensuing drive on a 35-yard run by Palmer.
"We played pretty well at times, shot ourselves in the foot a few times," SA’s Stoffel said. "We didn't catch a break. We prepared ourselves pretty well, had a pretty decent game plan going in, but you don't catch any breaks, that's what happens."
Red Dragons receiver Jeffrey Seams provided both scores with two touchdown receptions from quarterback Noah Reed.
In the first half, Jones opened the scoring with an 80-yard touchdown run on the game's first offensive play when he took a pitch and found the left sideline. As Jones ran past the secondary, he sprinted to the end zone untouched and the Tigers led 6-0 after 15 seconds of play.
Princeton's defense forced St. Albans to a three-and-out on its first offensive series before Jones added his second rushing score. Jones capped the 10-play drive with a 5-yard score to help make it 14-0. Sho-Johnson opened the second quarter with a 56-yard run as the Tigers took a 21-0 advantage.
The Red Dragons offense found success with their next drive though, manufacturing a nine-play, 50-yard scoring drive. Seams provided the scoring play with a 27-yard scoring reception from Reed. Seams hauled in the pass in the flats, found a seam in the defense and took the ball with great quickness to the end zone.
The Tigers returned the ensuing kickoff to the St. Albans 17, but the Red Dragons recovered a fumble on the third offensive play of that series to thwart the drive. Neither team mounted any scoring threats in the first half's final seven minutes as Princeton led 21-7 at halftime.
St. Albans will next play at Hurricane next Friday, while Princeton hosts Riverside.
Princeton..............................14 7 20 6 — 47
St. Albans...............................0 7 0 7 — 14
P -- Jones 80 run (kick failed)
P -- Jones 5 run (Saunders run)
P -- Sho-Johnson 56 run (Fix kick)
SA -- Seas 27 pass from Reed (Ellis kick)
P -- Palmer 35 run (Fix kick)
P -- Jones 53 pass from Palmer (Fix kick)
P -- Sho-Johnson 4 run (kick failed)
P -- Sho-Johnson 23 run (kick failed)
SA -- Seams 6 pass from Reed (Ellis kick)
First Downs: PR 17; SA 6. Rush-Yards: PR 57-431; SA 21-6. Pass Yards: PR 53; SA 131. Comp-Att-Int: PR 1-2-0; SA 9-16-1. Fumbles-Lost: PR 2-1; SA 1-0. Penalty-Yards: PR 18-169; SA 7-85. Punts-Avg: PR 2-28.0; SA 5-40.
RUSHING -- S P: Sho-Johnson 13-142-3, Jones 8-111-2, Palmer 16-95-1, Allen 11-53, Saunders 4-17, Nelson 3-9, Nathan Sink 2-4A: Washington 4-23, Nidy 4-6, Broderick 1-minus-2, Watkins 5-10, Reed 7-minus-31).
PASSING -- P: Palmer 1-2-0-53. SA: Reed 9-16-0-131.
RECEIVING: P: Jones 1-53. SA: David Reed 1-66, Seams 4-43, Jacob Grigsby 1-9, Dakota Kelly 1-9, Ryan Broderick 1-2, Watkins 1-2.