11/09/08 — Princeton ends streak vs. RHS

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Princeton ends streak vs. RHS

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 9, 2008 9:28 AM

PRINCETON -- Tyler Baker hopped on the cart and proudly rang the victory bell.

The loud clang echoed through the air and Princeton's football fans roared their approval from the stands. Baker and his teammates pumped their fists in the air in jubilation and showered their coaching staff with ice-cold water.

A long-awaited dream was no longer a fantasy, but a reality. The Dawgs ended 22 seasons of futility against archrival Rosewood with a resounding 24-6 triumph in the Class 1-A Carolina Conference regular-season finale for both teams Friday evening.

"This feels great," said a grinning Baker.

Princeton won four games in a season for the first time since 1999 and secured a date in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A (small-school) playoffs.

Baker couldn't conceal his excitement.

More than two months ago, his older brother Brandon was killed in a car accident along with current teammate Matt Stewart. The two players were recognized before the game and Stewart's No. 75 jersey was retired.

"They're both having a ball up there right now," said Baker, who wears a silver heart with his brother's name engraved on it. "Matt's dream was beating Rosewood. Brandon's dream was beating Rosewood. I played with both of them and what we did tonight is for them."

Princeton claimed its first win against the Eagles since 1985 and first home victory in the series since 1983. The Dawgs almost collected just their third shutout against Rosewood, but yielded a fourth-quarter touchdown.

Until then, the Eagles couldn't find a rhythm on offense.

The Dawgs allowed just 37 yards on 31 plays and created three turnovers, including interceptions by junior linebacker Chris Hill and junior defensive back Luke Mitchell.

"We've played pretty well on defense all year and it's really not a surprise to me how well they played tonight on that side of the ball," said PHS coach Russell Williamson. "We've done a good job of not giving up big plays on a consistent basis, especially against teams we're even with or can compete with."

Rosewood couldn't stop the critical play, especially on fourth down.

Princeton quarterback Dylan Myers completed two fourth-down passes which led to touchdowns. Jeremy Carmichael converted a fourth-down play into a fourth-quarter touchdown just moments after the Eagles pulled within 18-6.

Myers concluded the night 8 of 16 passing for 84 yards. Carmichael spearheaded a balanced rushing game with 60 yards on 10 totes.

"The problem that led (to the TDs) was giving them the short field where they felt comfortable enough to go for it on fourth down," said Rosewood coach Robert Britt. "It's hard to ask a team not to let that team gain a yard. We needed to do execute better on offense to where we didn't put our defense constantly with their backs to the end zone."

Myers' 2-yard quarterback sneak and Benton Myers' 1-yard plunge (off a fumble recovery) gave the Dawgs a 12-0 margin at halftime. Kwame Corprew extended the lead to 18-0 on 3-yard run midway through the third quarter.

A center-quarterback change enabled Rosewood to avoid the shutout. Fullback Eric Martel busted loose for a 44-yard run, the longest by either team on the night, to put the Eagles in business. JV quarterback Taylor McGill capped the 5-play, 2-minute drive with a 41-yard scoring strike to Ahkeem Simms.

After Carmichael's touchdown, Baker picked off McGill to end the Eagles' final threat and set off a much-awaited celebration.

"(Our defense) played awesome," said Baker. "I don't know what else to say."