08/22/11 — FOOTBALL TAB -- Bulldogs find motivation to work hard

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FOOTBALL TAB -- Bulldogs find motivation to work hard

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 22, 2011 1:47 PM

On the heels of a 10-win season in 2009, a young, inexperienced Princeton squad learned numerous painful lessons through the adversity of a 2-10 campaign a year ago.

With six losses by 25 or more points and a 1-4 record in Carolina 1-A Conference play serving as haunting reminders of last season, the Bulldogs found plenty of motivation to work hard in the weight room during the off-season.

"I think the biggest thing has happened in the offseason," said Princeton head coach Russell Williamson. "Last year we were so young and so small. We just needed to catch up a bit physically."

The Bulldogs returned to the practice field noticeably stronger, more familiar with each other and the coaching staff, and eager to improve.

New defensive coordinator John Benson has installed a 4-4-3 defense. Princeton allowed 38 points a game in 2010 and gave up 40 or more points on four different occasions. Benson's scheme calls for more gap responsibility and Williamson has been pleased with his players' ability to grasp new terminology and concepts.

Senior Adryan Joyner has been moved from linebacker to the defensive line and joins fellow seniors James Hawley and Gary Allen on the defensive front. Senior Forrest Stewart is expected to lead a veteran group of linebackers.

Junior quarterback Brad Williamson returns to guide an offense that averaged 21 points a game in 2010. He threw for 914 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions a year ago. Williamson has displayed a better understanding of the offense during summer practices and is surrounded by a wealth of experience at the skill positions.

Senior Javontae Davis, Princeton's leading rusher from last season, is back along with backfield mates Joyner, Kameron McDougald and Jamaal Allen. Stewart, Austin Hinton and Tyler Craft all bring senior leadership to the receiving corps.

"I feel like we're a whole lot further along than we were last year," said coach Williamson. "This is our third year in this system. Brad knows where everybody is supposed to be and it helps he played all of last year and he also has a year of experience on the JV team.

"Last year, he probably would have had a meltdown if he made a mistake. This year, if he makes a mistake he knows we still have a game to play."

Protecting Williamson up front is a seasoned offensive line. Hawley returns at center, with Andrew Wilmoth and Corey Grantham occupying the guard spots. Cody Pope and Allen are penciled at the tackle positions. Gabriel Teague and Leith Pucket are both capable reserves with varsity experience.

Through the highs that came with the success of the 2009 season or the trying lows of 2010, the Bulldogs' commitment to the program and allowing the game of football to teach valuable lessons along the way has never wavered.

Perhaps the fruits of that dedication will be reaped this season.

"Our kids do a great job learning from what happens and making adjustments," said coach Williamson. "They work hard every day and they give us everything they've got. Hopefully this crowd will get rewarded and have a decent year for being such a good group of kids."

Princeton opens the season Friday at Hobbton.