Gallery by Greg Barnett
Princeton – Points were at a premium for the better part of 40 minutes in Friday night’s Bluefield-Princeton matchup. It’s why an emphasis will be put on the six Bluefield didn’t get, swinging the momentum the Tigers’ way.
Trailing 13-6 and facing fourth-and-goal from the Princeton 5, a pass to Bluefield’s 6-foot-5 receiver R.J. Hairston was called incomplete with under 10 minutes to go, ending one of the Beavers’ few promising drives of the evening. The play served as a deathblow for the visitors who yielded a pair of touchdown passes to all-stater and Moss Award candidate Dom Collins in a 27-6 loss at Hunnicutt Stadium.
The play in question, coming immediately after a defensive pass inference call on Collins, ended Bluefield’s comeback hopes entirely.
“When you make a great play and R.J. made a helluva play and Sencere (Fields) made a nice throw, give it to us,” Bluefield coach Freddy Simon said. “I thought he got it and you do too and so did one of the officials. If you’re paid to do a job, get in position to make the call and he may have thought he made the right call. I don’t think he did. I think it hurt us and it was a good turning point. If we stop them, and maybe we don’t, but if we do, maybe we go. I’m proud of our players though. We didn’t quit and we’ve played two pretty damn good football teams that will be in the playoffs in Virginia and West Virginia and we had a chance to beat both of them.”
Here’s the PI from the play before that extended the drive as well. pic.twitter.com/bTJQFm1aLe
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) September 2, 2023
By the end the ruled incompletion did little to impact the final result.
Collins, who drew brackets and double coverage all evening, found slivers in the Bluefield defense, turning a pair of short passes into touchdown receptions of 70 and 27 yards to seal the win for the Tigers.
“The first one they were trying to bracket me and we ran our little screen play and my linemen worked their butts off to get out there and block for me to get that corner and all I needed was to just use my speed on the corner,” Collins said. “On the second one they just single covered me and took the bracket off and we ran the exact same play and my linemen worked their butt off to get to that corner and once they get there it was pretty much over.”
This was the coverage Dom Collins saw most of the night. I’m sure you can guess who was highlighted in the scouting report. pic.twitter.com/6bN47wL3zl
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) September 2, 2023
It was a matter of perfect offensive sequencing for the Princeton, which waited for the opportunity to get its best playmaker open after establishing a successful run game.
“They were running the ball so we we stopped (the bracket) one play and what do they do? They throw it out there to him,” Simon said. “They had to do what they had to do and we tried to do what we had to do and it didn’t work for us but it is what it is. I still think we get that play, we don’t have to worry about it.”
“What helped us on those last couple of touchdowns is we started running the ball a little bit,” Princeton coach Keith Taylor said. “They started to move away from that bracket and it gave us a clear shot to Dom where he could go 1-on-1 and make things happen. But we kept saying at the beginning if we couldn’t run the football they were going to be able to bracket Dom and go 1-on-1 with Brad (Mossor) or Marquel (Lowe) on the other side.
“It was giving us fits but I think as we got our footing and were able to lean on them a little bit and run the football it gave us opportunities to get Dom in space.”
The fourth quarter eruption wasn’t an indication of how the preceding three frames unfolded. Special teams and defense led the way with Collins opening the scoring when he returned a punt 38 yards to stake Princeton to a 7-0 lead with 2:41 left in the first half.
“Honestly it was just trying to make something happen after the tackle,” Collins smiled. “I was running up the left side and I got hit pretty hard but I spun out of it and I looked in front of me to the right and I just saw grass so I just took off.”
— Tyler Jackson (@TJack94) September 1, 2023
The following kickoff showcased the lows of Princeton’s unit after the spectacular high that preceded it. The Beavers returned the kick to Princeton’s 26, giving their methodical offense life before the half. They capitalized, scoring their only touchdown of the night when Sencere Fields dove in from two yards out with 1:53 left in the half.
Princeton appeared ready to pull away in the third quarter when Marquel Lowe raced 38 yards to his right to make it a 13-6 game and later returned an interception at the Princeton 9 to the 25.
But again Bluefield’s defense held, holding Princeton to a combined 3 of 15 on third and fourth down conversion attempts Friday evening.
After Princeton failed to turn Lowe’s interception into points, a Bluefield punt return to the Princeton 32 eventually led to a first-and-goal situation at the Tiger 7 heading into the final frame with the visitors trailing 13-6. Princeton’s defense made up ground, dropping the Beavers for losses on their first two downs, in line with a defense performance in which the Tigers held Bluefield to 149 yards of total offense. That set up the sequence of plays in which Collins’ lone interception of the night was waived due to an interference call and Hairston’s catch was ruled incomplete.
“That’s not PI,” Collins said. “I can’t get a pass interference if I jump before he’s even going for the ball.”
He answered with his two offensive scores of the night coming on the following two drives. Collins finished with four catches for 125 yards and two scores, adding a third on special teams. Lowe added 103 yards and a touchdown on offense to go along with an interception and fumble recovery on defense. Chance Barker finished 10 of 16 passing for 171 yards and two scores to round out the Tigers.
Gerrard Wade and Sencere Fields rushed for 48 yards each in the loss.
Bluefield will search for its first win of the season next week when it travels to Greenbrier East while Princeton will host Oak Hill and former defensive coordinator Davon Marion, now head coach of the Red Devils, next week in a battle of unbeaten Class AAA teams.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @tjack94
B: 0 6 0 0 – 6
P: 0 7 6 14 – 27
P: Collins 38-yard punt return (Aboulhosn kick)
B: Sencere Fields 2 rush (PAT missed)
P: Lowe 38 rush (PAT missed)
P: Collins 70-yard pass from Barker (Aboulhosn PAT)
P: Collins 27-yard pass from Barker (Aboulhosn PAT)
Rushing – B: Gerrard Wade 17-48, Sencere Fields 13-48-1, Tyquise Powell 5-15, Ty Patton 3-8, Kisean Smith 1-(-1), Jeff King 1-(-5); P:
Passing – B: Fields 2-6-36-0TD-1 INT; P: Barker 10-16-171-2TD-0INT
Receiving – B: Hairston 2-36; P: P: Collins 4-125-2, Diacomo 2-23, Mossor 2-13, Lowe 2-10