PRINCETON — Jesse Snyder put Princeton Tigers football back on the map with an historic 11-1 season and quarterfinal appearance in 2015. After five seasons at the Tigers’ helm, he’s following the map back home.
Snyder was approved by the Stockton School Board Monday night as the Blackhawks’ new head football coach and athletic director; he will also teach physical education. Stockton is a Northwest Upstate Illinois Conference rival and neighboring school to Snyder’s hometown team, Lena-Winslow.
It was not an easy decision for Snyder, but he said it was best for him personally and professionally
“I’m excited for the opportunity to go up to a community close to home and have an impact on kids in the area I grew up,” said Snyder, whose parents, grandparents and brother live in the Lena/Stockton area. “It’s just an opportunity for me to advance my career and be in a place that’s 10 minutes from my family. It’s a great opportunity to be part of something that traditionally and historically has been put in place there. They have all the tradition there. The community’s extremely supportive of the program there. That’s exciting.”
Snyder, 31, became emotional when asked about his memories at Princeton, his first teaching job out of college.
“I am extremely blessed to have been part of the community here and have the support of the administration and the town,” he said. “It’s been a great nine years of my life. I’m looking forward to the next 20-25 years, however long it is. It’s been a phenomenal opportunity here, and I can’t give enough credit to the people who gave me the opportunity and supported us over that time.”
Snyder had a rough start at PHS, going 0-9 his first two seasons before claiming a season-opening win in the 2014 season.
Then came the historic 2015 campaign in which the Tigers went 9-0 for the first time in school history and won their first 11 games before falling in the 3A quarterfinals.
The Tigers were also playoff eligible in 2016, going 5-4, but fell short on playoff points.
Snyder finished with a 19-29 record at PHS.
Stockton, a 1A school with an enrollment of 183, has a rich football tradition. The Blackhawks have qualified for the playoffs 29 times, including six straight and 12 of the last 15 years. Stockton is a two-time state champion (1978, 1991) and has finished as state runner-up four times, most recently as 2012.
Snyder laughed when asked about going from one side of the Stockton/Lena-Winslow rivalry to the other.
“I’m gonna bleed maroon and gold,” he said of Stockton’s colors. “It will be a fun rivalry. I have a lot of respect for all the coaches and all the schools in that conference, just like I did here.
The Stockton job opened in February when former coach Chris Thornton resigned after being charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly choking a male, by grabbing the individual by the hood of his sweatshirt and pulling on it, according to the Freeport Journal-Standard.
Thornton, 42, had an 82-35 record as head coach at Stockton from 2006-16.
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