BY JAY GREENBERG
Never mind the NCAA, Ivy League and Princeton records he set in an Ivy League championship 2013, Quinn Epperly still greatly minds the way it ended.
“We didn’t do enough and we lost,” said Epperly right after the Tigers settled for a share of the Ivy title with Harvard by losing Game 10 at Dartmouth. “We lost and it’s a terrible way to end the season for our seniors, really tarnishes a lot of what we did for the year.”
Let the record show that none of the Tigers who received their 2013 Ivy League championship rings Saturday had to run for the Tarn-X to scrub off the eight points that cost them an undefeated season. The rings, which also noted on one side a second consecutive Big Three title, are beautiful, but in keeping with Princeton tradition they are in silver for a co-championship not in gold like for undisputed titles.
|Quinn Epperly '15|
"I thought we threw the ball well but all of them made greedy decisions and I have to get that out of them. “Connor (Michelsen) threw one across his body. Kedric (Bostic) had one that could have been intercepted and Chad had one (tipped) in the red zone. where on third down he should have just taken the ball where it was -- at the two-yard line. You can’t get enough of this [practice time] to work on decision making.”
Undisputed remains only the bad taste in their quarterback’s mouth. The first thing Princeton’s new co-captain said in Saturday’s first addresses to the team?
“I think we need to rid ourselves of any complacency,” said Epperly, elected along with Mike Zeuli.
“We lost two games last year, we did not go undefeated and we need as many guys out here this summer as we can get. We don’t have the time for anyone coming in out of shape.
“I want to thank you guys. I am honored you voted me as captain. But with that, I’m not accepting anything less than an undefeated season next year. I want a gold ring. We are going to be the first (Princeton) team undefeated since 1964.”
|Mike Zeuli '15|
Instead Zeuli, the senior-to-be linebacker said: “No way we lose a game. “It’s unacceptable if we lose a game next year.”
“You want them to feel like the standard is being perfect, whether it’s in a call, a throw, or a tackle,” he said. “Anything less than that you have to correct, that's how coaches think.
“Players can think aw, I’m doing okay,’ but there is no complacency in Quinn. He thinks like a coach. That’s a great trait.”
And a characteristic that rubs off. When Surace sent his players to the polls last week to pick co-captains, he felt however the vote came back Princeton would be undefeated.
“We had 15 guys get votes, which shows how many good leaders we have,” said Surace. “But it was a large majority for both [Epperly and Zeuli] and shows the respect they have from their teammates.
|James Frusciante '17|
Epperly and Zeuli succeed the graduating Caraun Reid and Phil Bhaya, both of which played on successive 1-9 teams and appreciate more than most 22 year-olds the value of perseverance. the new captains, 1-9 as freshmen, too, grabbed their share of the rope to pull the pull the program out of the doldrums, why they didn’t have to promise any post-practice ice cream or balsa barbells in the weight room to get elected by their peers.
“It means a lot to me, especially with your friends [choosing],” said Epperly. “An extreme honor.”
“To know that guys see you as their leaders,” said Zeuli, “is really humbling.”
ONE FOR NILS
Mark Berggren, whose 14-year-old son Nils lost a horrific fight against his body’s rejection of the stem cell transplants that defeated Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in February -- but not before he and the 2013 champions mutually inspired each other -- spoke before the Tigers, Nils included posthumously, received their rings.
“It is a very deep void,” said Mark, captain of the 1985 Tigers. “You have spent at lot of time and energy focused on helping him and now that I don’t have to do that it’s a bit disorienting, to be honest with you.
“So being here helps orient me. The people in this program put Nils on the team and as true teammates do, they supported him and he found inspiration from them. So to be invited here and come back to where I played football and be received by the football community, it’s a sense of family.”
With multiple nicked and recuperating upperclassmen held out of Saturday’s final spring scrimmage (although the Tigers will practice one more time Wednesday), it was an opportunity for rising freshman to play their way up the August depth chart.
Running backs Joey Rhattigan and A.J. Glass hit hard between the tackles; receivers James Frusciante, Lawrence Wilson and Connor Grogan (the latter two for touchdowns) had impressive catches and quarterback Chad Kanoff threw well; On defense, Sam Huffman had an interception and linebacker Rohan Hylton made a couple strong plays on the ball.
“It was a physical day,” said Surace. “I thought we were going to run 75 plays and it went so smooth, I think we did about 100.
“Things were moving so well, guys were running so well, and it was a beautiful day so lets keep going.
“Defensively we were around the ball, and offensively the red zone (execution) was good.