The Princeton Vikings don’t know when to quit.
In the Vikings’ first three games, Princeton entered the fourth quarter trailing its opponent. Yet by the power of will, the Vikings won them all.
But as the Pat Mancuso Field scoreboard rolled to triple zeroes on Friday night, a bitter reality set in for the Vikings.
There would be no comeback.
Princeton lost to Elder, 26-21, on Friday night in a Division I, Region IV quarterfinal. Despite all odds, the Vikings (6-2) played their best season in years under head coach Mike Daniels. And even in disappointment, the fourth-year coach made sure his team stuck together in its darkest moment.
“Nobody likes to lose. It sucks,” Daniels said. “So you just try to love on those boys, the seniors and be assured that you keep them together.”
Princeton finished its best season since 2007, and a big reason was because of its offense. That offense came to play early against the defending regional champion.
After fumbling in the red zone on its first drive, Princeton made up for it with a long drive that lasted a whole two plays. The 6-second drive ended with Thomas Boyd’s first touchdown of the night.
Elder (5-3) responded with a swift drive of its own.
In only three plays, Elder quarterback Ben Hambleton (11-for-16 passing for 196 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) led the Panthers down the field. It was his buddy Drew Ramsey, however, who finished the last 23 yards off. Touchdown Panthers, and just like that the shootout was on.
Penalties were a constant hurdle for the Vikings to climb. On Princeton’s third drive, Mehki Lynn (11-for-16 passing for 195 yards and a touchdown) and the Vikings faced a second-and-23 after three consecutive penalties. But neither the referees, nor the Elder defense, could stop Boyd (11 carries for 69 yards and two touchdowns) on his way to another touchdown.
At this point, Princeton’s offense looked like it had the superior firepower. Elder looked lucky to be down a score, and Pat Mancuso Field was rocking with the Vikings’ momentum. The Panthers needed a bomb. Drew Ramsey (22 carries for 94 yards, four catches for 54 yards and two total…