Such was the general disposition of the Princeton football team on Thursday evening, who used a determined effort to dispatch archrival Rosewood, 52-28, before a lively crowd at Harvey Brooks Field.
“Our kids played really hard,” Princeton head coach Travis Gaster said. “They executed our game plan, and they played hard the whole game.”
The night started out perfectly for the Bulldogs as they executed a 12-play 59-yard drive that Jaydon Brooks capped with a four-yard touchdown run.
McKinley Uzzell’s extra point made the score 7-0 in the Bulldogs’ favor. After a defensive stand, the Bulldogs got the ball back, and two plays into the drive, Brandon Turner broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run.
Now leading 14-0 entering the second quarter, the Bulldogs kept things rolling when Christian Perris capped a nine-play, 44-yard scoring drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.
Rosewood followed with a three-and-out, and the Bulldogs answered with another scoring drive that ended on Brook’s eight-yard touchdown run.
“Any time you get a stop on defense nowadays, it’s big. It’s getting harder and harder to play defense. People spend all their time on offense, and it shows. Offenses are great, and Rosewood is no different,” Gaster said. “To hold them without a first down was big and tone-setter for sure.”
The Bulldogs defense held off the Eagles for most of the first half, and Rosewood did not have a first down until late in the second quarter.
“You have to add McKinley into our defense. When you’re starting on offense from the 20-yard line, the percentage of you scoring is crazy low,” Gaster said. “McKinley giving us the ability to put teams on the 20-yard line is a big deal, and it’s a big boost for our defense.”
However, the Eagles started to find their offensive footing when David Lamm burst across the goal line from one yard out and turned the trim the Bulldogs’ lead down to 28-7.
With four minutes left in the second quarter, the Bulldogs engineered another scoring drive, and two seconds left on the clock, Uzzell nailed a 30-yard field goal to give Princeton a 31-7 halftime lead.
The Eagles cut Princeton’s lead down 31-14 on their opening drive of the second half when Terquavis Butler sprint down the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
Another touchdown run from Brooks would give Princeton a 38-14 lead, but Rosewood would not quit, and late in the third quarter, another one-yard plunge into the endzone from Lamm made it a 38-21 ballgame.
“Good players make you look like you’re a good coach,” Gaster said. “Jaydon and Christian are unbelievable athletes that work their fannies off, and it’s an honor from them to carry to the ball, but it’s also an honor for them to carry the ball behind our offensive line and our blocking back.
“They do a great job of paving the way for those guys.”
Princeton’s offense could not be stopped, and in the fourth quarter, Perris tacked a touchdown runs of 40 yards and 15 yards, respectively, which gave his team a 52-21 lead.
Rosewood scored a late touchdown, which cut the deficit down to 52-28, but the game was well in Bulldogs’ paws by that point.
Brooks finished the game with 191 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 26 carries, while Perris carried the ball 16 times for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Turner ended up with 66 yards and a touchdown on two carries.
Princeton (3-0) overall travels to Richlands on Sept. 17. Rosewood (2-1) will look to bounce against Whiteville (1-0) next Friday.