The Princeton Vikings added another victory to their win streak Friday Night, after coming back from a 14-point deficit in the second half to pull out a 27-21 win over the Lakota West Firebirds.
Lakota West kicked off to Princeton to begin the game, but a miscommunication between the return men caused Princeton to start the opening drive with their backs against their own endzone. However, that did not stop the Vikings from crossing midfield two plays later, after consecutive jet sweeps by sophomore Halen Witcher and senior Trey Watkins for big gains.
A sack by Lakota West senior defensive lineman Corey Smith, followed by a holding call against Princeton, caused the Vikings drive to stall. Princeton was forced to punt on fourth-and-long, was able to pin Lakota West inside the 5-yard line.
--Postgame: Nate McGill, Princeton
--Postgame: Gary Croley, Princeton
The Firebirds had no trouble moving the ball down the field, led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Jones. Jones was able to connect with senior wide receiver Bubba Williams three times, each reception resulting in a new set of downs for the Firebirds. On 3rd-and-1, senior running back Marcus Davis was able to find a seam in the Princeton defense for a 22-yard touchdown run.
Princeton's kick returner, junior running back Demarco Thomas, provided his offense with excellent field position after a spectacular return that set Princeton up at the 50-yard line. Senior quarterback Nate McGill connected with junior William Blevins on the first play of the series to move the offense into the red zone. Lakota West was able to stop the Princeton drive yet again when Lakota West senior defensive back Phil Druck gave the extra effort to dive and deflect a pass on fourth down.
The Princeton defensive line, led by Senior Nikolas Beckum, was able to pressure the quarterback to force several incomplete passes, and the Firebirds were forced to punt the ball back to the Vikings.
Demarco Thomas had several key runs in the first drive of the second quarter, which set him up for a three-yard run on 2nd-and-goal to put his team's first six points on the board. Junior kicker Jacob Bent tacked on the extra point, tying the game at 7-7 with 9:37 remaining in the first half.
The Princeton defense continued to keep pressure on Lakota West, with senior Jhalil Croley and junior De'Antay Hayes each recording sacks on this drive, forcing another Lakota West punt.
The Lakota West defense made yet another fourth down stop on the ensuing Princeton drive, giving Lakota West the ball with under three minutes remaining. The Firebirds caught the Vikings defense off guard, by utilizing a trick play on 1st down, in the form of a direct shotgun snap to Davis. An intentional grounding penalty pushed the offense back to 2nd-and-30, and the Firebirds were not able to convert.
Princeton took the ball back with 1:30 left in the second quarter, but the drive came to an abrupt stop on first down when West senior cornerback Peair Foster intercepted a McGill pass. Foster crossed into Viking territory on the return, and set up Lakota West in scoring territory.
The officials had to bring the chains out to measure after a third-down pass from Jones to Williams, and the measurement was in favor of the Firebirds, giving them a fresh set of downs at the 22-yard line, with 30 seconds until halftime. Trey Watkins made a tremendous first-down play from the cornerback position by deflecting what would have been an easy touchdown catch for West junior wide receiver Grant Pence. That didn't stop Jones from taking another shot at the endzone two plays later, this time with a much different result; a 22-yard fade route to senior wide receiver Kayuane Ross to put his team up 14 – 7 as the teams entered the locker rooms for halftime.
Lakota West started with the ball to begin the second half, and had great field position thanks to a big second-down run by Davis that put the Firebirds inside the 30-yard line. The Vikings held their ground, forcing Lakota West to attempt a 38-yard field goal that came up short.
West earned the ball right back by forcing a three-and-out on Princeton's first series of the second half. In the blink of an eye, the Firebirds were in goalline territory after a big catch and run on a screen play to Davis. One play later, Jones found his way into the end zone on a 2-yard play-action bootleg.
With a 14-point lead, the Firebirds held Princeton's offense for another three-and-out, but a face mask penalty on third down gave Princeton a first down. After a strong second effort by the defense, Princeton was forced to punt, and pinned West inside the 5-yard line. Lakota West was held to 4th-and-21 from the 20-yard line, and a fake punt by Davis came up two yards short, turning the ball back to Princeton on downs.
The Vikings moved the ball through the air efficiently, as the Princeton offensive line was able to provide McGill with enough time to comfortably sit in the pocket and find his receivers. As time ran out in the third quarter, McGill connected with senior wide receiver Darius Pritchett for an 11-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good.
Lakota West took over possession, and Princeton was able to force a punt with 9:17 remaining in the game, and a 95-yard drive to the endzone ahead of them. Facing 3rd-and-5, McGill kept the series alive for the Vikings by setting up a bubble screen to Watkins for a first down. McGill also relied on his legs to move the ball for Princeton. On the 12th play of the drive, Demarco Thomas caught a screen pass and broke three tackles for a 42-yard touchdown reception. Princeton lined up for the two-point conversion, and Jones was able to find Demarco Thomas wide open on the goalline to tie the score at 21 with 4:51 remaining in the game.
Princeton forced its first defensive turnover of the night by recovering a fumble on the Lakota West 48-yard line. With three minutes remaining in the game, McGill found Pritchett for a 22-yard fade route, the duo's second touchdown play of the night. A botched snap on the extra point caused the kick to come up short, making the score 27 – 21, the first time in the game Princeton had been ahead.
The Princeton kickoff bounced into the endzone, and the Firebirds took over from the 20-yard line. West was not able to convert, and turned the ball over on downs with 1:27 remaining in the game. Nate McGill and the Viking offense took the field one last time to take a knee and run the clock off to seal the victory.
McGill finished the night with 11 completions on 17 attempts for 135 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 66 yards. Thomas and Watkins each rushed for 70 yards. Pritchett had three receptions for 49 yards, two of which were touchdowns. For Lakota West, Davis rushed 26 times for 186 yards and one touchdown. Jones completed 12 of 23 for 157 yards and 1 touchdown.
Lakota West falls to 1-3 as they face Oak Hills at home next week. Princeton remains undefeated at 4-0, and travels to Hamilton next week.
*Written by: Zak Bertram, TriStateFootball.com