Heading into the Section 6AAAA Semifinal against Delano on Nov. 20, one would expect a close, hard-fought contest. Princeton had been grinding out close wins all year, and facing a Delano team that had made back-to-back State Tournaments, it would surely make for a back-and-forth battle. This was not the case.
Princeton was able to put together a full game, executing on both sides of the ball while romping to a 30-12 victory over the opposing Tigers in the 2020 season finale.
The win earned Princeton the title of Co-Section 6AAAA Champions. Becker was able to win its section match-up against Big Lake to join the Tigers. Both teams will get state participation trophies.
Originally scheduled to take on Delano Nov, 21, the game was moved up a day in order to abide by Gov. Walz’s shutdown of high school sports to limit the spread of COVID-19 cases. The state saw many other teams scrambling to schedule section championship games between the best two seeds remaining in each section.
Section 6AAAA decided to keep the teams’ original opponents and crown both teams section champions instead of pulling any abrupt change. The Tigers deserved to keep their home match-up against Delano instead of hitting the road according to Princeton Activities Director Darin Laabs. “We looked at doing a No. 1 vs. No. 2 deal, but our kids earned a home game,” Laabs said.
Opening up the game, Delano was able to throw the first punch, grabbing the early 6-0 via a long touchdown pass to give them the lead over Princeton.
Tigers’ Head Coach Ryan Fay said Delano scoring first was a bit of a wakeup call for the team. “They ended up scoring on the third play of the game, so we were down 6-0 quick. That was kind of an eye opener that we had to wake up quick,” Fay said.
Princeton was able to do just that as just two plays later, Quarterback Cooper Drews was able to hit Haydn Stay for a 49-yard touchdown pass and just like that, the Tigers held a 7-6 lead.
The scoring would take a brief pause until late into the first quarter when Delano found themselves pinned deep into their own zone. A fumble recovered by Stay in the end zone helped the home Tigers expand their lead to 14-6.
Princeton would add a Zach Marshall 26-yard field goal, expanding the lead to 11 points at the end of the first.
Princeton’s defense was able to settle in after the first Delano possession, holding the Tigers scoreless for the remainder of the half, dominating the line of scrimmage as the two teams entered the half by the 17-6 score.
Princeton defensively was able to get Delano out of their comfort zone according to Fay. “They are good at what they do and we wanted to get to the point where we could make them do something different, that was our main goal defensively. We made them pass more than they expected too,” he said.
Manny Flicek was able to pick off the Delano quarterbacks three times on the night.
Back after halftime, Princeton continued to frustrate Delano’s offense holding them scoreless again in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense got going.
A Drews QB 1-yard sneak and a rushing touchdown by Stay ballooned the Tigers’ lead to 30-6 entering the fourth quarter, effectively sealing the win for Princeton. The Tigers reeled off 30 unanswered points to build their 24-point lead. Delano would add a score late to bring the game to its 30-12 final score.
The victory for Princeton was the Tigers sixth in a row to move them to 6-1 while Delano dropped to 1-3 as the Tigers had games canceled due to COVID-19.
As the season comes to an end for Princeton, Fay views it as a step in the right direction for the program. “It was a huge success, we controlled the things we could control and the season as a whole was a big step for our program,” he said.
Heading into the offseason for Princeton, the Tiger will have to replace players who were large contributors to the success this season. Fay knows it will be hard to fill the spots left by the seniors. “It’s never to replace those guys,” said Fay.
With COVID-19 putting the season in doubt from beginning to end, Fay is happy that the team was able to play all seven games they were scheduled this year. “I’m glad that the kids got the opportunity this year to get seven games in, we are thankful for that as well,” Fay said.
Princeton will now enter the offseason with momentum, hoping to comeback just as strong next year.