PRINCETON — Throughout the season, Princeton football coach Derrick Minor has talked about the heart of his football team. Friday night, the Bulldogs’ supporters who sat through the rain and three scoreless periods by their team, saw exactly what Princeton’s mentor was talking about.
After struggling to find any type of attack through three quarters, the Bulldogs came to life in the final period, erasing a pair of 14-points deficits before falling, 43-41 in triple overtime.
“The wins may not have shown up on the scoreboard this season,” said Minor, whose team fell to 2-8 overall and 1-4 in the Carolina 1A Conference in its regular season finale. “And it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard tonight, but these guys showed on the field tonight that they are winners.”
Their display showed on both sides of the ball - despite giving up 418 yards on the ground, including a 200-yard, four touchdown effort by the Eagles’ Spencer Garrison, which was complemented by the 183-yard, two score display of Jamari McGowan.
The Bulldogs defense, throughout the first half and most of the third quarter, held up despite lengthy drives by the Eagles, which rushed the ball 79 times, while throwing only two passes. And when they needed it the most in regulation, trailing 21-13, the Bulldogs stopped the Eagles on downs at midfield, forcing Rosewood to punt with just more than two minutes to play.
The Bulldogs were rewarded for that effort when Jamaal Allen scooped up the ball at the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line, raced up the left sideline, turned back to the middle of the field, then scampered to the right and into the end zone to trim the deficit to 21-19.
Princeton converted the two-point conversion, drawing even with 2:07 to play, and the Bulldogs defense held off a spirited Eagles rally in the closing seconds, stopping Rosewood at the 10-yard line as time ran out.
Allen had given the Bulldogs a boost just two minutes prior to his punt return, hauling in a slant pass from Michael Wooten on fourth-and 11 and racing 30 yards for a touchdown. That score drew Princeton within 21-13, but Wooten was stopped short of the goal line on the two-points conversion effort.
“We got a big boost on that pass,” Minor said. “We had dropped a couple of touchdown passes in the rain in the first half.”
Allen had a pair of catches for 51 yards, while Wooten was accurate on 4-of-11 attempts for 81 yards and two TDs.
Overtime found Princeton with the opening possession, which started poorly, as the Bulldogs drew a procedure penalty, setting them back to the 15-yard line.
But on the first play, Wooten found Johnny Frazier on the left side for a 15-yard score, to take a 27-21 lead.
The Bulldogs opted to go for two points on the conversion, and Frazier stepped out-of-bounds a foot before reaching the goal line.
Frazier, who led the Bulldogs in rushing with 87 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries, provided Princeton with its first score of the night, a 33-yard burst with 8:43 left in regulation, drawing the Bulldogs within 14-7.
Rosewood, thriving off the dive play throughout the night, evened matters on its first play of overtime, a 10-yard burst by McGowan, but Marquail At Monster’s PAT attempt sailed wide right.
Princeton stiffened on Rosewood’s second overtime possession, forcing a fourth down at the two-yard line, but Garrison bulled his way through the line for the go-ahead score and the subsequent two-points conversion, giving the Eagles a 35-27 lead.
The Bulldogs answered on the strength of back-to-back runs by Frazier, who also added the two-points conversion, sending the game to a third overtime. Frazier needed only one rush to give Princeton its final lead of the night, 41-35, but he was stopped short of the goal on the conversion attempt.
Again, the Bulldogs defense rose to the occasion for the first two plays, keeping Rosewood out of the end zone, but Garrison pushed his way through the line on third down from the three to tie the game.
Garrison was handed the ball for the two-point conversion attempt and met fierce resistance as the Bulldogs tried to protect their goal in hopes of a fourth extra session.
Officials needed a while to determine if Garrison had indeed crossed the goal, unpeeling the stack, before signaling the winning tally.
Prior to the fourth quarter and overtime offensive explosion, Princeton struggled offensively, with four consecutive three-and-outs in the first half before picking up its first first down of the half in the waning seconds.
The Bulldogs managed only 26 yards in the scoreless first half as both teams slogged through the early bands of Hurricane Sandy, and had accumulated only 30 prior to Frazier’s 33-yard jaunt.
Rosewood, however, had a 10-play and a 15-play drive in the first half, only to be denied by the Bulldogs defense.
The Eagles took their opening possession of the first half and marched 80 yards in 12 plays, culminated by a two-yard run by Spencer with 5:30 left in the quarter for a 7-0 lead. They stretched that advantage on their next series, a 14-play, 85-yard march that also ended with a Garrison touchdown run..