LEGGETT — Princeton’s run into the third round of the NCHSAA 1A playoffs – after a two-win regular season – is confusing. The Bulldogs have won two straight against teams with much better records to earn Friday’s third-round game at Rosewood.
They have done it with a revamped offense and reinvigorated defense.
“It’s a whole new system. There’s a lot of misdirection,” said first-year Princeton coach Derrick Minor. “When you go against a team that’s pretty fast off the edges, that misdirection gets them and then you pop loose. We’re finding a good balance. When a team tries to shut our run down, we can pass, and that’s always good and then vice versa.”
Princeton sophomore quarterback Michael Wooten completed just five passes in last week’s 43-12 win over North Edgecombe, but Jamaal Allen had two catches for 110 yards.
Standout sophomore back Johnny Frasier rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns, while Dillon Pace had a pair of TD runs and 84 yards. Wooten ran for two scores as well.
“It’s grown. It’s just gotten better and better,” Frasier said. “Me and Michael (Wooten) have a connection.”
Frasier had one of the more memorable plays of the playoffs during Friday’s game, leaping over a North Edgecombe defender on the way to a 35-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up 30-6 in the third quarter.
“I don’t know,” said Frasier, when asked to explain the play. “I saw him hit the ground and the first thing I thought was to jump. I guess it was the best decision I could’ve made.”
Princeton has outscored its two playoff opponents (North Duplin and North Edgecombe) 71-33 after a regular-season in which it was were outscored by more than 18 points per loss.
The Bulldogs’ defense was particularly effective in slowing down North Edgecombe’s running attack.
The defensive line plugged most of the running lanes and prevented North from working its trap plays effectively. When the Warriors did find a running lane, Princeton closed quickly on the ball with multiple defenders.
Those efforts made for another memorable night in what has been an unforgettable November for a relatively young Bulldogs squad.
“I feel blessed to be a part of this,” Minor said. “You preach every day hard work, teamwork, heart, everything – you preach it all day but when you get into a slump and you’re losing, it’s hard to really believe that. But our kids have always believed it.”
Sports editor D. Clay Best contributed to this report.