It’s been 33 years since the Princeton football team was last able to claim at least a share of a conference championship. So, with such an opportunity before them with a win in the last game of the regular season, the Bulldogs wasted little time in claiming what they felt was theirs.
Princeton scored five touchdowns in the first quarter as it routed the Gators 54-7 to share the Carolina 1A Conference championship with Lakewood and North Duplin.
Earl Gibson scored on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage, a 56-yard scamper, and scored just over a minute later after the Gators fumbled on their first play from scrimmage.
On the Gators’ second possession, a botched punt snap set up the Bulldogs (6-5, 5-1)with a short field which Trace James converted into an 18-yard rushing touchdown and the rout was on.
The fast start was like nothing second-year Princeton coach Travis Gaster has ever seen.
“We came out fast offensively and then we got a fumble early and we kind of feed off of that, said Gaster. “We make a big deal about turnovers and taking advantage of them when we do get them and we did that.”
The first five-and-half minutes told all one needed to know on this night as the Bulldogs ran all over Spring Creek. Princeton led 30-0 at the 7:13 mark of the opening quarter thanks to its punishing ground game as well as a host of mistakes perpetuated by the Gators.
THEY SAID IT
“It’s unreal, really,” Matthew Stallworth said of claiming part of the conference championship. “It’s been our goal since day one. We’ve been busting each other’s butts each day in practice and the weight room and on the field.”
He continued: “We came together as one and we achieved our goal today.’
THREE TO KNOW
Earl Gibson, Princeton: Gibson set the tone for the Bulldogs with the early romps to the end zone. For Gibson, the fireworks continued as the senior ran for 135 yards, scoring twice on the ground and also once in the air on a long strike from Adam Crocker.
Adam Crocker, Princeton: The Bulldogs didn’t throw the ball much all season and that remained the case Thursday night. Crocker didn’t need to air it out much, however, to be effective as he found the end zone on each of his throws, the first on a 47-yard bomb to Gibson and then a six-yard toss to Garrett Klein in the second quarter.
Matthew Stallworth, Princeton: The senior back found plenty of running room behind the offensive line and totaled 134 yards on the ground and a pair of touchdowns.
“It really was our O-line,” said Stallworth of the wide open running lanes. “I’m just honored and blessed to be able to run the ball behind those guys. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think any of this would have happened.”
BY THE NUMBERS
190: Yards rushing Princeton amassed in the first quarter.
minus-6: Spring Creek yards rushing for the whole game.
112: Yards passing from Spring Creek’s Landon Smothers, which included a 10-yard third quarter touchdown pass to Allen Hickman.
3: Spring Creek turnovers.
52: Yards rushing for Princeton’s Trace James.