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Eagles set to defend nest
Entering last season the Princeton High football team was in rebuilding mode, by the end of the season the Eagles were fully upgraded.
The team improved by from 5-6 to 6-4 and were in nearly every game they played.
Several key players from last year graduated, but the players who remain are poised to build on last season's successes.
Junior Oscar Espinoza returns for his third season after rushing for 1,069 yards and 10 touchdowns, catching nine passes for 121 yards and five touchdowns, and scoring five more touchdowns on special teams and defense.
In his two-year career, Espionza has rushed for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has 1,099 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns.
"We have chemistry together and we know what each other is good at," Espinoza said. "The whole team is going to progress over the three months of football."
He will be joined in the backfield by senior Gavino Mitchum, who rushed for 320 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing three games with an injury.
Princeton stayed in games against high-powered offenses with its ball-control offense. Chipping away on long, clock-eating drives. Mitchum said he expects more big plays this year but the strategy is the same.
"I think it will be more ball-control offense again," Mitchum said. "We're going to rely on speed, getting to holes and reading plays."
Senior fullback Jacob Chrestensen and sophomore running back Kyle Wills will round out the backfield.
Lucas Hubbard returns for his second season behind center after passing for 339 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 79 yards and another touchdown.
Last year was a learning experience for Hubbard, but having a season under his belt and a better understanding of how to play the position has him looking forward to the season, he said.
"My decision making is better, knowing when to tuck it and take care of the ball," Hubbard said.
Juan Falcon, Jordan Gonzales and Felix Gonzalez return on the line, and Julian Rosas returns at tight end. Senior Adam McMartin joins the team after a two-year hiatus and is a wild card. He is raw but is big and athletic, coach Bryan Lex said.
In 8-man football, the importance of sound tackling is amplified because there are fewer defenders covering the same size field. One mistake can lead to a long touchdown.
"There's a lot of one-on-one tackling in the wide open field," Lex said.
Stopping the opposing offense begins with the defensive line where Falcon and Gonzales will clog up the middle at defensive tackle. Rosas will line up at defensive end, and Wills, Chrestensen and Gonzalez will also spend time on the line.
Lex isn't sure if he's going to use the 3-3 defense again this year because he's waiting to see if he can find a third linebacker to join Hubbard and Mitchum.
"It all depends on who you have. Find out what you do well and execute," Lex said.
The Eagles will find out what they have the first two weeks of the season when defending Northern Section 8-man champion Dunsmuir arrives in Princeton for the first game on Aug. 30 and runner up Redding Christian comes calling the next week.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org