In critical situations, players look to those who are most experienced for guidance, as these leaders can motivate and produce results for the team. Last year, a l
ack of senior players seemed to hold the football team back, but this year the story has changed; the boys currently hold a 5–1 record, as of October 17, after recording just one win in the previous two seasons combined.
During the 2013 season, the football team went 0–10 and was outscored by 295 points throughout the season. This year, after just four games, the team had already surpassed the total number of points it scored in 2013 and 2012; the boys tallied 111 points in the first four games this season as opposed to 98 points and 93 points in all of the 2013 and 2012 seasons respectively.
After taking the reins of the team at the beginning of 2013, Head Coach Charles Gallagher looked for options to turn the team around. One change that Gallagher made was the implementation of mandatory lifts every Saturday before the 2014 season started. The weekly lifts began in August and were monitored by coaches.
“I’ve played football all four years of high school, and [before Gallagher] we never had [lifts],” said Co-Captain Tommy Moore ’15. “He made himself more available to the team, and put himself more into [the program].”
Despite the changes that were made, the solution that made all the difference in the end was an abundance of veteran players. According to the Gallagher, the team’s number of seniors has contributed to their winning streak.
“In one word, [the change was due to] experience. We had a lot of players come back and play their same position so it was real simple,” Gallagher said. “It was a feeling of relief to finally get a win, and we were ecstatic about that … but [we’re] taking it one game at a time.”
Last season, the football team had only four seniors and suffered a myriad of injuries that further depleted the number of experienced players of the team. This year, however, many players returned from last season, and now 12 seniors help to lead the team.
“We had a really young team last year, and now it’s a veteran team, so because it’s a veteran team you’re going to understand certain situations,” said Gallagher. “You’re going to be able to perform [in] them because you’ve been there before.”
“A lot of the players that were on the  team … played a lot every game so they know what it’s like to play and they are better [this year],” said Co-Captain Colin Buckley ’15.
The effect of having such an experienced team is twofold, as the upperclassmen are not only able to better themselves but are also able to help underclassmen while the team trains.
“[During practice], the younger guys will be in the position [to learn] and it’s up to the older guys to teach [them],” said Brian Tien ’15. “It’s like peer-to-peer coaching.”
With the help of the seniors, younger players can learn what it’s like to play varsity football and step up to meet the challenges of the sport.
The team hopes that its wins this season will help to build the program as a whole in future years by attracting students who want to play for a winning team. “This year [students] will see that football is still alive in [Princeton High School] … [and] that we are still competitive,” Tien said. “We’re hoping to have more high school guys try out and from there we can start thinking about feeder programs.”
Even with a more competitive team, there have been close games. The team has entered halftime with a one-possession margin separating itself from its opponent in four of its games this year. To get through these tight situations, the boys have relied on their experience, with Smallzman picking off Ewing High School quarterback Edamiyhon Doggett late in the fourth quarter to seal the team’s homecoming victory on September 19, and running-back Rory Helstrom ’16 breaking a 64-yard run to give the Little Tigers the lead in the fourth quarter against Lawrence High School on October 2.
“I think the big plays [are] what’s getting us wins … Everybody’s been making big plays but the big plays wouldn’t be happening without the linemen blocking and everybody doing their jobs, so that’s why these big plays work; everyone on the team comes together,” Helstrom said.
Important plays such as these can provide valuable experience, which the many young players on the team can use to hone their talent and ensure future success. And, after its winning start to this season, the team is confident that this plan can become a reality. “We’ve got some [really] talented kids, we’re happy with our senior class … and we’ve got some talented players in our junior class,” Gallagher said. “I think the future’s real bright for Princeton.”