PRINCETON – After winning its first three games in convincing fashion, Mendota got a chance to see how it stacks up with the upper echelon of the Three Rivers Conference. And while the outcome didn’t turn out the way the Trojans wanted it to, they proved they can play with the big boys.
Mendota journeyed into Tiger territory in Princeton to renew an old rivalry, and despite a 28-7 setback, the Trojans gave the highly-touted Tigers their fiercest battle of the season on Sept. 17 at Bryant Field.
It was Mendota’s first loss in four games and evened its record at 1-1 in the Three Rivers Mississippi Division, while Princeton improved to 4-0 and 2-0.
Princeton came into the contest as an unstoppable machine on offense and an immovable force on defense. The Tiger offense averaged 47 points through the first three games of the season and the defense was giving up just nine tallies per outing. While Mendota only managed seven points, it moved the ball well enough to put it in position to score more than just its one touchdown on the night. And on defense, the Trojans allowed the juggernaut Princeton offense a hard-fought 288 yards and shut the Tigers out in the second half.
An underdog wants to smack its opponent in the mouth right off the bat, and the Trojans did just that. After Mendota’s offense was held on the opening series of the game, the Trojans dipped into their bag of tricks once again and pulled out a fake punt, as Damien Magallanes received the snap from center and took off running for 13 yards and a first down near midfield.
Mendota’s offense was back on the field again before Princeton got a chance to touch the football, and the Trojans parlayed that second chance into the first touchdown of the night, when on fourth-and-two, Uzi Angulo broke free from the line of scrimmage for a 25-yard scamper to the end zone. Emilio Perez booted the extra-point kick for a 7-0 Mendota lead with 7:09 left in the opening stanza.
Princeton’s first opportunity on offense resulted in the tying touchdown when quarterback Teegan Davis hooked up with Carson Etheridge on a 25-yard TD strike at the four-minute mark. Steven Benavidez added the extra-point kick to knot the score at 7-all.
The Trojans started their ensuing possession at their own 27, and Princeton’s defense came up big when Ean Compton intercepted a Ted Landgraf pass and ran it back 40 yards to the end zone to give the Tigers the lead. Benavidez’s PAT kick made it 14-7 with 27 seconds left in the first frame. It was the first time Landgraf has been intercepted this season.
The Trojans drove to inside the Princeton 21-yard line on their next series, but were stopped on downs. Both teams exchanged punts, and after Mendota booted the ball back to the Tigers, the home team tacked on another score when Davis found Danny Cihocki on a 67-yard bomb. A successful extra-point kick made it 21-7 with 7:23 left before halftime.
More defensive stops resulted in more punts from both sides over the next four minutes. There was also another fourth-down hold by Princeton’s defense as the Trojans marched inside Tiger territory once again, but were denied on a fourth-and-two at the Princeton 43 at the 3:07 mark.
The Tiger offense was able to turn that stop into another score before intermission when Logan Glancy gathered in a Compton 10-yard touchdown pass with 39 ticks left on the clock. Benavidez added the PAT kick. Compton was in at quarterback for starter Davis, who was forced to the bench with concussion symptoms.
Neither team came close to scoring in the third quarter, while both squads had several chances at punching the ball in the end zone in the fourth period, but no one succeeded.
Princeton drove to the Trojan 5-yard line early in the fourth, but its offense went backwards from there and ended up missing a 30-yard field goal try.
Mendota’s best chance of scoring again came when Charles Heiting blocked a Tiger punt and Garret Zinke recovered at the Princeton 8-yard line. But the Trojans were only able to gain 4 yards during the possession and gave the ball back to Princeton on downs with 3:25 left.
The Trojans’ last chance on offense resulted in a missed 30-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining.
Mendota concluded the contest with 235 total yards. Landgraf ran for 73 yards and passed for 90. Of Princeton’s total yards, 205 of them came via the pass.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season, Trojan coach Keegan Hill was more than pleased by the effort put forth by his squad.
“We played hard the entire game in a competitive environment against a good team,” Hill said. “I’m excited to see our growth going forward.
“Our kids want to compete. This group is not satisfied with the loss, and that’s a good thing.”