By DAVE MORRISON
PRINCETON – To paraphrase the old Robert Burns line, “Sometimes the best laid plans of offensive coaches go awry.”
Or sometimes it’s just good to have a coach on the field.
Princeton coach Chris Pedigo readily admits that either would suffice after the Tigers’ 21-0 victory against George Washington in the season finale. That was the Tigers last game after receiving a forfeit in their playoff game against Wheeling Park last week when Ohio County was orange on the COVID color-coded chart.
No. 10 Princeton now heads to No. 2 South Charleston in the Class AAA quarterfinals Friday night.
During the Tigers’ first five series against George Washington, Amir Powell had been limited to 23 yards.
“Amir came to the sideline and he told us, ‘Hey, let’s try this,’ “ Pedigo said. “So we said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ We went away from our zone blocking scheme and went to that. On his first carry doing that he had a 40 yard gain. We ended up running that play 15 of our 17 run plays in the final six series of the game.”
And Powell prospered, racing for 127 yards on those possessions to total 150 yards in the game and top 1,000 for the season.
Powell now has 1,060 yards rushing, the firs Tigers player to top 1,000 since Devon Sibley had 1,092 in 2017.
It illustrates how player friendly the Princeton offense is. While the coaches game-plan generally has worked this season, averaging 431.6 yards of total offense and 43 points per game.
The players have also bought in and taken ownership of the offense to an extent.
At different times the key cogs in the offense – Powell, wide receivers Ethan Parsons and Josiah Honaker and quarterback Grant Cochran, have suggesting tweaks during games.
“When it comes down to it that’s we want,” Pedigo said. “It wasn’t the head coach who noticed that (tendency by GW in the playoff game). It wasn’t the offensive coordinator. It wasn’t the line coach. It’s something Amir saw. We have a lot of faith in our guys and when they notice something like that we have generally given it a shot and a lot of the time, like with Amir, it’s worked out.”
For the season the Tigers are averaging 157.5 yards per game rushing and 274.1 yards passing.
But South Charleston is a different animal.
“They match up well with us, especially on the backside,” Pedigo said. “There defensive backs are all about 6-feet tall and they all are quick. Their defensive line has three Division 1 guys. I told a writer from Charleston (Tuesday) night that in all my years doing this, going back to 1997 when I was here with coach (Ted) Spadaro that is the best defensive line I’ve ever seen.”
The line is led by 6-3, 240-point Cincinnati commit Zeiqui Lawton.
Spadaro was also high on the Black Eagles offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Trey Dunn, who has thrown for 1,495 yards and 20 touchdowns and has a team-best six rushing touchdowns.
“It’s a monumental task but it’s a task I think our guys are ready for,” Pedigo said. “They have done a really good job of not focusing on anything but the here and now.”
And, if need be, adding a new wrinkle here and there.