Mistakes costly as first victory eludes Steinert against unbeaten Princeton


Mistakes costly as first victory eludes Steinert against unbeaten Princeton
Oct. 11, 2014 Football
Mistakes costly as first victory eludes Steinert against unbeaten Princeton
By Rich Fisher
Oct. 11: It was suggested to Steinert football
coach Dan Caruso that he had to feel better
after today’s 28-14 loss at Princeton than he did
after last week’s 51-14 setback at Allentown.
Bad suggestion.
“Not really,” the father-to-be said. “We gave
them 21 points. We just keep shooting
ourselves in the foot and killing ourselves. It’s
stupid little mistakes.
“We return a punt for a touchdown and our guy
decides to hit somebody in the back 20 yards
behind the play after the touchdown actually
happened. It’s just stupid, stupid football. You
can’t do that. You can’t win games like that. It
should have been 7-0 us, and the next thing you
know we’re down 21-0.”
Even a bigger problem was turnovers, as the
Frank Lucchesi had a solid game on the defensive line for
Spartans lost four fumbles, including one that Steinert today (Photo by Kim Johnson).
turned into a touchdown; and another on a punt that spoiled a chance to drive for a game-tying
touchdown and set up Princeton’s game-clinching TD.
This was a winnable game for Steinert, which dropped to 0-4 while Princeton – Mercer County’s
biggest feel-good story this season – improved to 5-0. The Little Tigers had a punt and field goal
blocked and also committed a whopping 95 yards worth of penalties.
“We just have to stay together as a team,” said lineman Hunter Chranowski, one of several defensive
players who played well. “There’s nothing else I can really put to it. We have to come together with our
losses and finish the season out strong.”
To point out the frustration, at halftime, Steinert outgained Princeton 181-158, but trailed 21-7 as the
Littler Tigers scored in all three phases of the game.
Forced to punt after Steven Christopher’s apparent 55-yard punt return for a score was wiped out by
the aforementioned penalty, Steinert fell victim to a 57-yard punt return into the endzone by the athletic
Rory Helstrom, who had over 200 all-purpose yards.
That was followed by a 55-yard fumble return for a TD by Tigers linebacker Sam Smallzman. Steinert
had a chance to cut into the lead when Gianni Gonzalez blocked a punt to give the Spartans the ball
at the 39, but the offense couldn’t capitalize.
A defensive breakdown allowed Helstrom to break loose on a 47-yard reception that set up a 1-yard
TD run by Colin Buckley to make it 21-0.
“We handed them that (Helstrom completion) to them on a platter, Caruso said.
To the Spartans credit, they had a comeback in them as the passing game looked its best this season.
With 2:47 left in the half and Steinert starting at its 29, Kyle Muller covered all 71 yards in the air on
five completions, capped by a perfectly thrown pass to Alex Rubio in the endzone.
“He showed some composure,” Caruso said of Muller, who was 11-for-22 for 132 yards. “He’s getting
more comfortable back there. It’s gonna come for him. The line is doing a good job keeping people off
of him so, he’ll have chances.”
In the third quarter, lineman Sean Gallway intercepted a pass and looked like a running back as he
scampered 19 yards to the 10. Two plays later Rubio scored on a 4-yard run and suddenly Steinert
only trailed 21-14 with 10:08 left in the third
“These guys haven’t given up all year,”
Caruso said. “They want to play football and
win as much as the next guy. They’re never
gonna give up.”
But they too often become their own worst
“When we scored there, I thought we would
keep driving down the field,” said Frank
Lucchesi, who also played well on the
defensive line. “We started driving, but had a
couple key times where we gave them the
ball back.”
Steinert’s defense dug in, but so did
Princeton’s and it remained a seven-point
game until late. With under four minutes left,
the Spartans forced a punt but it was fumbled away and recovered by Princeton’s Tad Moore, who
flew down the field and slid between the returner and the ball to recover it at the Steinert 32.
After a strong game in a losing effort, Spartan lineman Hunter
Chranowski said the Spartans just have to stay together and tough it
out (Photo by Kim Johnson).
“That’s a killer but on defense we still should have made stops when we had the chance to,” Lucchesi
said. “That led to them going down the field and it shouldn’t have happened.”
With just 1:39 left, Princeton quarterback Dave Beamer appeared to be in trouble. But he did a nice
job keeping the play alive by buying time with his legs before hitting Joe Hawes with a game-sealing
16-yard touchdown pass.
“He’s mobile, he’s moving back there,” Chranowski said. “We just have to work together as a D-line. If
we had better containment we could have stopped him. He can move but we still should have made
the play there.”
If there were bright spots, it was Steinert’s resiliency and the Spartans defense.
“You obviously gotta give them a lot of credit,” said Princeton coach Charlie Gallagher, the runaway
favorite for Mercer County Coach of the Year at the halfway point. “They’ve had three tough games
and played Allentown last week, a great ball squad.
“Coach Caruso does a good job, they’ve got the numbers, good athletes, good size at the line. We
couldn’t get any pressure on their quarterback for the most part. We were trying to make plays
happen, they did a good job thwarting us to a certain extent.”
While Helstrom did rush for 102 yards, Steinert made him earn them. The Spartans also did a fairly
nice job of containing Beamer until the big play at the end.
“We shut their run game down,” Lucchesi said. “Number three (Helstrom) hasn’t been shut down all
year. We did a great job up front. The linemen need to work just as hard this week, come back and get
a win against Nottingham.”
Caruso was happy with the defense, which allowed 273 total yards.
“My defense played very, very well today,” he said. “The message of the game is the defense had a
rough week last week but had a very good game this week. We had team tackling, we were getting
helmets to people and bringing them down.
“On offense we’re moving the ball but just not finishing. We’ve been consistently good on special
teams all year, and today we were not good at all on special teams.”
That’s how it seems to go for winless teams. When one thing works, the other doesn’t.
“All this is gonna do is bring us together as a team,” Chranowski said. “We can’t take a loss as a
negative. At this point we just need to come together and get a win.”
If the Spartans can stop making costly mistakes, that win should come sooner or later.
Follow Rich Fisher on twitter @fish4scores