Youth was served at Princeton last year, as the Tigers were caged by the competition most Fridays. However there's a veteran talent and new hope in camp in 2021.
"Just sticking to our keys and playing as a team," says Princeton senior offensive/devensive lineman Adam Bysarovich.
"Towards the end, we struggled sometimes and we just need to find a way to get through it," says Princeton sophomore quarterback Christian Schafer.
Basic goals for a team trying to get back to basics. Princeton is looking to rebound from at 2-and-8 season, it's fourth straight losing campaign. And 5th year head coach Jared Maners thinks he's found the key.
"It was a crazy year, number one," says Maners. "But I don't think we handled it the best way either, and didn't make the most out of it that we could have. I think there was a lot of regret and a lot of things we would have gone back and done different, if we had the opportunity. I think there were a lot of things we learned from last season, that we can take into this season and how to build off of."
It all starts on offense, The Tigers lost 800 yard rusher Ben Heindreich and star receiver Dom Hardiman. However, Maners has a bevy of returning skill players such as running Caleb Ice, wide receiver John-Allen Moore and 3-year starting tight end Colton Smith. They also have their a pair of underclassmen quarterbacks eager to take the lead.
"Christian Schafer right now," says Maners, "and we've got another kid, Cole Beloat, who's a junior. He's improved drastically. We really like him. So we really feel like we've got two guys that we trust. Christian's probably a little more athletic, can run the ball a little bit."
"We've got a good group of wide receivers coming in," says Schafer. "Got some old guys and we've got some young guys in there. We've got some good talent. A good o-line and got some good developing running backs."
"We've got five starting linemen that have varsity experience in the last three years." says Maners. "Some of them are three year starters. There's a lot of pieces coming back. We've got to stay healthy and we need improve on the things on to turn this thing around this year."
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers have bigger task to master, as Maners and company must makeover a defense that has gave up nearly 36 points per game in 2020.
"Defensively, it just burns me up," says Maners. "I'm a defensive guy. That's my background. My defensive coordinator has been to three state championships as a DC, and won one as a state champion defensive coordinator. We're defensive-minded guys and I feel like the last two years we've tanked it on that side of the ball. Had guys in the right places, just haven't made plays. That's frustrating. So, that's a big area of focus this year.is finding eleven guys who want to put the action on the field and get eleven hats to the ball, be aggressive and make plays for us."
"Defense, we've got a really good defense this year," says Bysarovich. "I think we can stop them every play. Like we're supposed to."
However, there's really only one overarching message a Princeton training camp this year.
"We've got a bad tendency of worrying about a lot of things that we can't control," says Maners. "That's including negative things. We've just got to focus on us. We've got to focus on getting better at all levels, the youth, the high school. Everything we do. Every single day. We can't take anything for granted. We've got to come out here and we've got to work. Put the work in, and worry about us and hopefully things will start changing and turn around for us."
The Tigers open on the road at Forest Park August 20th.