‘One play away’ -- Hamilton falls to No. 3 Princeton in waning seconds

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

SHARONVILLE — The Hamilton High School football team played well enough to beat No. 3-ranked Princeton on Friday night.

“Just one play is all we needed,” Big Blue coach Arvie Crouch said. “It’s a shame. One play away.”

Deangelo Birch hit Daelyn Jarman on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left, and Princeton knocked off Hamilton 22-16 at Pat Mancuso Field.

Hamilton had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in the Greater Miami Conference. Princeton moves to 5-0, 4-0 GMC.

“That’s what hurts, man,” Crouch said. “The kids deserved it. We get a bad rap. Everybody thinks this and that. These kids are outstanding. They work hard — some of the hardest working kids that I’ve ever coached. It’s just frustrating. But we’re going to go back to work (Saturday) and see if we can’t fix this.”

Princeton scored on its first possession of the game when Tyrentino Brown-Freeman found the end zone from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 with 7:55 left in the opening quarter.

Hamilton drove down to set up a 21-yard field goal by Connor Stephens with 2 seconds left before the half, cutting Princeton’s lead to 7-3.

“We made the adjustment at halftime — that ignited us,” Crouch said. “We hit a couple of deep balls, and we were being a little conservative on that. But we hit some deep balls and got behind them a couple of times. We’re pretty fast, too.”

David Hambrick plunged in from 3 yards out to give Princeton a 14-3 advantage with 5:07 left in the third quarter.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

A blocked punt by Jailen Morris that was recovered by Gracen Goldsmith set the Big Blue up in scoring position at the end of the third quarter. Goldsmith found the end zone on a fourth-and-1 run up the middle to pull it to within 14-10 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Then on the next Hamilton possession, Antonio Mathis hit a streaking Cairon Navey for a 67-yard pass play. That led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mathis to RJ Shephard-Ruffin that gave the Big Blue their first lead of the game, 16-14, with 7:53 remaining. The extra point attempt from Stephens hit the goal post.

“It was two really good programs going at it,” Princeton coach Andre Parker said. “There’s got to be a winner and a loser. Hats off to Hamilton. I thought they played really, really well.

“I’m really proud of our kids dealing with adversity,” Parker added. “We felt like we had the game in our control, then they blocked a punt that kind of flipped the game a little. We made a big play in the passing game, and we were good to go. Our execution and our toughness at the end, mentally, is what I’m really going to talk to our guys about. We had every reason to put our head down and pack it up, and say, ‘Better luck next time.’ They were Vikings tonight.”

A fourth-and-long pass connection from Birch to Jarman kept the final Princeton drive alive just before Birch found Jarman again for the game winner.

“This is why you coach and why you play high school football,” Parker said. “Nights like this are special. Both sides will remember it for the rest of their lives. They’ll be 40 years old and sitting there with their buddies saying, ‘Do you remember that game?’”

Trey Verdon and Goldsmith each recorded two sacks for Hamilton, which hosts Fairfield next Friday. Verdon and Wayman Carr Jr. led all tacklers with seven apiece. Mathis threw for 147 yards on 11 of 24 passing with two touchdowns and an interception.

Birch finished with 159 yards passing on 17 of 23 attempts for Princeton, which travels to Oak Hills next week.

About the Author