TISKILWA — The horn sounded at the end of Princeton’s 5-0 regional championship win over Wilmington and the players on the PHS bench stood and lightly applauded. They quickly lined up to shake hands with the Wildcats and turned their attention to the next business at hands.
PHS coach Jason Bird told assistant David Gray he was happy to see his team was not satisfied just to win regional and relayed the same message to his team.
“We want to keep playing. Obviously wining regional is the first step you got to take to get where you want to go,” Bird said. “We got to get ourselves ready for Wednesday. That’s all they need to worry about now playing a game Wednesday. The coaching staff will worry about the opponent.”
“We’re not done. Last year, once we won regionals, we went crazy. Man, we won. Second time we done it. But this time, we’re going to keep going,” senior captain Jacob Estrada said. “We got Mendota first, we can handle them. Nothing much. Our main thing is we’re just not going to roll over like we did last year.”
The Tigers will take a 17-3-5 record up against Mendota (9-11-2) in sectional play at Mendota at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The former NCIC rivals did not play this year having their early-season match canceled by the heat.
There was plenty to cheer about Saturday from the PHS side of the field. Five different players scored goals with three Tigers notching assists in an overall team effort.
Senior Tyler Marvin, who rejoined the Tiger squad after taking a year off, got the Tigers on the board just over three minutes into the game with an assist from Brenton Schmidt.
Estrada and Bird said it helped to calm some nerves.
“I know I was personally nervous, but once we got that first one under our belts, everybody cools down, starts playing our game, play the short balls, make runs. We do a lot better when we send balls over the top,” Estrada said.
“It’s always important to score the first goal. The guys relax more once we go out and score early in games,” Bird said.
They didn’t stop there, though it took a while. With 2:50 left, Brenton Schmidt cashed in to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Dylan Schaefer played a part in all three goals in the second half. He assisted a goal by Estrada at the 34:47 mark, scored his own goal with a header off a pass from Zach Andersen at 18:05 and passed off to sophomore Kai Tomaszewski to cap the scoring at 12:55.
Princeton outshot the Wildcats 21-2 with keeper Lucas Bauer making both stops on goal. Estrada said sweeper Drew Pranka is one of the best defenders he’s ever seen.
Bird said the Tigers worked hard on defense in practice and communicating, and it paid off Saturday.
“If you don’t let them score, you’re going to win,” he said.
Tiger tales: Estrada said last year’s 7-1 loss to Hinckley-Big Rock in the sectional semifinals at Mendota has been a big motivating factor for the Tigers. “Once we lost, everybody cried. I’m not going to lie. We’re men, but we cried. When we came back to start summer, none of us could forget that,” he said. ... Macomb and Somonauk will meet in the second semifinal Wednesday with the sectional finals set for 6 p.m. Saturday.
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