By DAVE MORRISON
PRINCETON – It was nearly offensive football perfection. So perfect in fact that the halftime numbers added up to what appeared to be n error in the score at halftime: Princeton 62, John Marshall 12.
It was not a misprint.
It was the Princeton offense clicking on all cylinders in what would wind up a 68-33 victory.
And it was an A+ version of exactly how the senior playmakers in that offense, Ethan Parsons, Josiah Honaker and Amir Powell, benefit from their classmates’ production.
Although he would later say it was the exception and not the rule and might never happen again, coach Chris Pedigo said it was a prime example of how important those elements are to the offense.
“In the first quarter we went to Ethan early on and they started bracketing him,” Pedigo said. “So that opened things up for Jo and then the started to bracket him. That opened thing up for Amir to run the football.”
All told, Powell ended up with five touchdowns in the first half, Honaker added two and Parsons had a touchdown reception and an interception return for a touchdown.
It was a tour de force for the Princeton wide receivers to the tune of Honaker catching six passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns and Parsons adding five receptions for 103 yards and another score against a fellow Class AAA playoff team.
That helped quarterback Grant Cochran pass for a score record 407 yards. Powell added 108 yards rushing and those five touchdowns in the victory.
Nobody expects to see that kind of production nightly, especially as the playoffs get continually tougher. Princeton advanced in the first round after Wheeling Park had to forfeit due to being orange on the COVID-19 map.
The Tigers will now take on No. 2 South Charleston, an old Mountain State Athletic Conference for (Princeton left the MSAC in 2015) Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Black Eagle Stadium in South Charleston.
Parsons and Honaker have produced numbers all season.
In the eight games Princeton has played on the field, only twice has one of the two not had a 100 yard receiving game – the opener against Bluefield and a victory against PikeView.
On the flip side, the two have combined to have 100 yard games in three games – Parkersburg South, John Marshall and Greenbrier East.
Parsons has five games with over 100 yards receiving and Honaker has four.
The dynamic duo have combined for six 100 yard games in the last four games.
“They’ve worked hard to improve every year that we’ve been here and they are reaping the rewards of that hard work,” Pedigo said. “They run precise routs. They get open. They make plays.”
Indeed they do.
Parsons, who has led the area in receiving two straight years, has 44 receptions for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is averaging 102.4 yards per game and 18.6 yards per game.
His height, at 6-3, is an advantage and he uses it well.
“He’s got great length and his speed is deceptive, he has long strides,” Pedigo said. “I don’t know how many go balls we have called but he has the leaping ability to go up and get them when we go his way. He has a knack for high pointing the ball. One of the most impressive was in a scrimmage against Capital when he went over two defenders to make a catch.”
Honaker has 27 receptions for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages 93.5 yard receiving per game and a whopping 27.7 yards per catch.
Honaker, who averages over 20 yards per reception over the last two seasons, has speed to burn as evidenced by a 94 yard touchdown reception against Greenbrier East on a slant pattern.
“He got by the corner and then outran the safety and he was gone,” Pedigo said. “He has the speed to make big plays out of screens, slants. He’s going to Morgan State as a defensive back but I wouldn’t be surprised if the wanted to give him a look at receiver after the year he has had.”
It mirrors the season the team has had, sitting at 7-2 with a Class AAA quarterfinal staring back at them.
Pedigo said South Charleston offers many challenges, and has a Division I-loaded defensive line and tall, rangy athletes in the defensive backfield.
“They are a tough matchup for us, they have athletes all over the place,” Pedigo said. “We just have to find ways to get our guys the ball in space.”
When it comes down to it, football at this point sometimes reverts back to the basics.
“Our identity is throwing the football, but for us to be successful in the postseason we’ve got to play defense and run the football.”
But rest assured the playmakers at wideout will have some type of say in how it goes down.
Princeton’s Josiah Honaker takes a screen and uses his speed to turn it into a big gain against Bluefield Sept. 25, 2020 in Princeton.