PRINCETON — The Princeton football team is building.
Coming off a winless season last year, this fall the more-experienced Tigers have spent their preseason practices focusing on the little things and improving day by day under second-year coach Jesse Snyder.
“Our biggest thing is we come out here every day in practice and look to get better,” Snyder said. “I tell the kids all the time, ‘Be great every day. If you’re not great today, you’ve wasted a day.’”
Snyder and the Tigers hope the hard work translates onto the field and can turn the program into consistent winners, something it’s struggled to do in its history.
Princeton has only qualified for the postseason eight times in school history, not made the playoffs since 2003 and has had decreasing win totals each of the last four seasons.
This year’s Tigers want to change that.
“It’s almost like a motivator to come off an 0-9 season because you just want to do so much better than that,” senior quarterback Caleb Dickens said. “It’s a big motivator to prove to your community and prove to your school and prove to all the other area schools that you are better than 0-9 and that you can win some ballgames. We have a good group of guys, and I think we can do that.”
Princeton will be led by Dickens, who returns under center. He may, however, split time with sophomore quarterback Jacob Reinhardt.
Whoever is under center will be complemented by an offense that Snyder expects to be diverse in formations and plays as well as balanced between run and pass.
Senior Logan Wilde returns at fullback, while seniors J.J. Vaccaro and sophomore Jett Wedekind will play running back.
In the passing game, the quarterbacks will throw to returning senior tight end Dylan Williams, senior split end Ryan Grieff and junior split end Michael Camp.
A key for the PHS is the offensive line, which Snyder has spent plenty of time working with thus far.
Up front, senior Jordan Sissel returns at right tackle, senior Matt Gibson will play at right guard, senior Doug Frazier at center and senior Collin Hasbrook at left guard. Junior Tyler Clark and senior Jacob Mazzarisi are both competing to be the starting left tackle.
“We’ve all been working really hard, and coach has been especially hard on the offensive line to stay low,” said Gibson, a captain. “A lot of guys have been popping up. We have a lot of linemen coming back from last year, so we know this stuff and we just have to work on it and get it fine-tuned.”
The defense will look to continue to improve after struggling the past few years.
The group will be highlighted by Williams and junior Zach Friel as linebackers, Dickens as the strong safety, Wedekind at free safety, Grieff and Wilde at cornerbacks and Sissell, Gibson, Hasbrook and Frazier on the defensive line.
“On defense, we have a lot of guys going both ways,” Snyder said. “I’m a firm believer in that we have to put our best 11 on the field, so once we get guys not as banged up as we are now, we’ll be in a little better shape.”
The Tigers, now in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference South Division, open their season Friday at Morrison before playing host to Sterling Newman in Week 2. The squads have combined to win three state titles in the last four years.
It also will be the continuation of Princeton’s building process.
“Last season, we definitely learned to not come in so cocky,” Gibson said. “We learned to not think, ‘We have this. It’ll be so easy.’ This year we are going to be humble, be ready and focused. Everybody is going to know the plays and everything is going to be like clock-work.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.