The Vikings used big rushing plays early and often, gaining 387 of their 473 yards on the ground. On the first play from scrimmage, Hairston began the scoring with a 78-yard touchdown run. The Middies committed on the read option fake handoff up the middle, opening a large hole for Hairston to exploit on the left side of the line.
Hairston finished with 114 yards on 10 carries and a pair of touchdowns. He also completed all four of his passes for 58 yards and a TD and caught the Vikings’ fourth touchdown of the game to make it 28-7 in the second period.
“I’m just blessed that our coaching staff got me here,” Hairston said. “We knew we had to get this win tonight. No team wants to start off 0-3, so I’m excited to get this one. I’m ready for the next one.”
Before the four-touchdown outburst in the second quarter by the Vikings, the first quarter ended with the Middies seemingly tilting the momentum back into their favor.
The Middletown rush defense began to stabalize, and the offense pieced together an 85-yard scoring drive, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run by senior running back Diondre Cooper.
“We’re getting better up front,” Engleka said. “It helps to have a running back of Diondre’s caliber back there. He is a hard runner and good football player. It’s nice to have a guy like that back there.
Cooper finished with 70 yards on 16 carries. He added a 76-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass late in the contest.
After Cooper’s early game-tying score, the Vikings took control of the game and did not let go. They took the lead for good on the first of two Daevon Bryant touchdown runs.
“We were committed to running the football tonight,” first-year Princeton coach Mike Daniels said. “We have some very talented football players here, especially at the running back position. We stuck to our guns and ran the ball. It’s great to get the first win.”
Bryant, a 5-foot-6 junior, led the Vikings with 112 yards on 11 carries. He had a 60-yard TD in the second stanza.
The Vikings continued to add on from there, scoring touchdowns on each of their next three possessions to close the first half. Hairston and Rafael Floyd connected on for a pair of scoring passes, two of the five passes Princeton threw in the game.
On the first of the TD passes, Hairston hit Floyd with a 15-yard strike. On the next possession, the Vikings used a bit of trickery when it was Floyd finding Hairston down the left sideline for a 28-yard touchdown.
“We told ourselves at the beginning of the game that we’re better than them,” Hairston said of Middletown. “Really, that’s our mind-set before every game. We wanted to come in here tonight and take their hearts out, and by the second quarter, it was over with.”
C.J. Thomas, Trey Key and Tyrese Sherman added second-half touchdowns for the Vikings, a team carrying the disappointment of the 2016 season on their shoulders.
Princeton believed it had turned its first winning season since 2011 into a playoff berth, but when Dayton Dunbar was forced to vacate the wins of their 9-1 season, the computer rankings recalculated the Vikings out of the playoff picture.
“These kids have been disappointed time after time,” Daniels said. “Whether it’s new coaches every few years, whether it was being told they made the playoffs just to be told they are out, these kids have been under all types of stress as a program. We’re trying to create some stability and create some excitement around here because these kids deserve it.”
Middletown continues to search for stability at the quarterback position in hopes of pairing it with an improving running game.
Blake Marshall started for the Middies and completed 8 of 12 passes for 87 yards and an interception. Zach Maloney played the second half and turned in bigger numbers, completing half of his 14 attempts for 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, Maloney also threw an interception that was returned for a PHS touchdown.
“Princeton outplayed us, they outcoached us, and they were better prepared than we were,” Engleka said. “But you keep moving forward. That’s all you can do. When we watch the film, we tell the kids to watch critically and analyze everything that we’re doing. We have to be honest about where we are and decide where we want to be moving forward.”
Middletown will have its first road game against Sycamore next Friday, while Princeton hosts Fairfield.
P: Hosea Hairston 78 run (Zackary Lacey kick)
M: Diondre Cooper 8 run (Sa’Mill Calhoun kick)
P: Daevon Bryant 10 run (Lacey kick)
P: Rafael Floyd 15 pass from Hairston (Lacey kick)
P: Hairston 28 pass from Floyd (Lacey kick)
P: Hairston 10 run (Lacey kick)
P: Bryant 10 run (Lacey kick)
P: C.J. Thomas 12 run (Lacey kick)
P: Tyrese Sherman 41 interception return (Lacey kick)
M: Kamari Fuller 16 pass from Zach Maloney (Calhoun kick)
P: Trey Key 15 run (Lacey kick)
M: Cooper 76 pass from Maloney (Calhoun kick)