Photo and article from Laieke Abebe
Four months after the last game of their shortened season in the spring, Princeton football returned to the field in style.
The Bulldogs trounced Johnston County foe Smithfield-Selma, 42-20 on Friday night at Harvey Brooks field. The Bulldogs have now won 27 of their last 31 games, dating back to the 2018 season.
“We just had to believe in each other,” Princeton head coach Travis Gaster said. “Smithfield-Selma has come a long way as a football program, and their coaching staff has done a great job. They made it difficult for us, but we started to do what we do best. We got timely stops on defense and made sure we take care of the football, which is what makes us successful.”
Princeton surrendered an opening drive touchdown, but on their first play from scrimmage, running back Jaydon Brooks had an answer. A 60-yard touchdown dash from the Bulldogs leading rusher tied it at seven early.
Then, the Bulldogs turned it up on defense and special teams. Defensive lineman Khalyb Robinson blocked a punt on the next possession leading to a Paul Edens six-yard rushing touchdown.
Christian Perris intercepted a pass on the Spartans’ third drive giving them more momentum. Edens found Peyton Mitchell on a 41-yard pass play to set up a Jabian Artis 10-yard score.
Leading 21-7 at halftime, the Bulldogs came out and stretched their lead further thanks to another Brooks scamper. The Spartans would score 13 points in 33 seconds, including a 100-yard kickoff return TD to stay in it. However, sandwiched in between was a Christian Perris 86-yard scoring run.
The visiting Spartans did have a chance to cut the deficit down to one possession after a fourth-down stop. However, the Princeton defense would answer by forcing a turnover on downs to keep control of the contest.
Brooks then capped it off with his third touchdown run of the night with six minutes left. After nearly 1,300 yards rushing last season, he began his senior year with a 403-yard outburst.
“He’s played for us as a freshman corner,” Gaster said. “Now that he’s a senior, he’s one of our leaders, and he loves football. It’s great to see him have a performance like that, but he’s had a lot of big games for us over his time here.”
Princeton begins the season 1-0, and they’ll travel to face East Duplin next Friday. The Bulldogs, who have moved up to the 2A classification this season, defeated the Panthers 22-15 in their season opener this past February.