Princeton junior Alex May (No. 66) blocks as teammate Jacob Starr runs the ball during the Tigers’ first-round playoff win over North Boone.
Princeton junior Alex May (No. 66) blocks as teammate Jacob Starr runs the ball during the Tigers’ first-round playoff win over North Boone.

Princeton reached the state semifinals last year for the first time in 17 years, and only the third time in school history.

With a team loaded with talent and many returning starters, Princeton primed to get past Byron, the hurdle that has knocked Princeton out of the playoffs the past two years in the battle of the two Tigers.

Head coach: Ryan Pearson (4th season)

Last year's record: 11-2

Biggest Question: Are Tigers ready to take another step forward?

The Tigers return seven starters on offense and six starters on defense from last year’s 3A semifinalists. Many kids saw playing time at a multitude of positions last year that bring back some varsity experience. They are likely to take another step forward as they aim for a state championship.

“Our goal is to win a conference championship again and put ourselves in an opportunity to compete for a state championship,” Pearson said. “I think those are goals we come in with every season and this one certainly isn't any different. Our kids have really bought in to our program pillars of hard work, discipline, humility and perseverance. They just want an opportunity to play and make our school and community proud of their efforts.” 

Will they play this fall?

“Who knows to be honest?” Pearson said. “Bottom line, I just hope our kids get the opportunity to play every sport they desire. Taking sports away from kids is not the answer and truly hurts them in the long run.” 

Players to Watch

Every one knows about All-State senior running back Ronde Worrels. The recent Air Force commit smashed the school record books, rushing for 1,654 yards yards and 34 TDs last season. He has racked up 3,667 career yards.

The Tigers also return quarterback Tyler Gibson, who flourished in his first season as varsity starter. The unanimous all-conference QB set the new school single-season passing record, throwing for nearly 2,000 yards (1,956) and 16 TDs, completing 104 of 176 passes.

Upfront, the Tigers bring back seniors Grant Foes (T/DT), who earned first team all-conference honors on both sides of the ball, and Alex May (T/NG) and junior Drew Harp, the team’s top tackler (159) last year along with senior Jamie Reinhardt (PK), juniors Cael Davis (DB) and Logan Glancy (RB/DB).

Newcomers You Need to Know

Juniors expected to step into roles for the Tigers include Pierce Miller, Ean Compton, Bennett Sierens, Matt Lucas, Jacob Aley, Matt Peacock, Ashton Davis and Cale Wallace.

Sophomores that are looking to contribute at the varsity level are Teegan Davis, Augie Christiansen, Danny Cihocki and Carson Etheridge.

2020 Schedule Analysis

Only the sites change as the Tigers face the same opponents in the same weeks as last year. The must-see game lands Week 2 on Sept. 4 at home when defending 2A state champ Newman calls on the Tigers at Bryant Field. The Tigers led the Comets 21-10 at halftime last year only to fall 25-21.

Princeton looks to run through a Three Rivers Mississippi Conference lineup that compiled just an overall 22-36 record last year, headed by longtime rivals Kewanee (7-4) and Hall (7-4). Overall, Princeton’s opponents sported a 44-47 record last year, boosted by Newman’s 13-1 mark.

Early Take

There is no reason to believe the Tigers will take any steps backward. They have much firepower returning from last year’s semifinalists with Worrels and company ready to blast their way onto the state finals.