SHARONVILLE, Ohio -- Princeton junior defensive Darrion Henry knows how significant Friday's game at Colerain is to the Vikings' program, but he's keeping things in perspective.
The result won't define Princeton's season. However, the game can certainly be a good barometer for the Vikings.
"We're grinding right now," Henry said at practice Tuesday. "Colerain is nothing we really haven't seen. It's not a big difference in the teams we've played. We're coming."
Princeton (2-0) plays at Colerain (2-0) in the Greater Miami Conference opener for both teams at 7 p.m. Friday.
Colerain, ranked No. 24 nationally by the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings , has won 18 consecutive GMC titles and could tie Princeton for a conference-best 19 this season. Their season is off to a good start: They defeated St. Xavier and La Salle the first two weeks and feel like they are battle tested entering the GMC.
Defensively, the Cardinals have been solid with the likes of senior linebacker Luke Bolden (14 tackles, two interceptions), junior defensive back Deshawn Pace (12 tackles) and sophomore linebacker Michael Bess (12 tackles), among others.
"We're fortunate enough to play two quality opponents and to be 2-0 after that," coach Tom Bolden said. "So I think our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. We know we've been tested. I like our 2-0 better than their 2-0, to be honest with you."
The Vikings haven't defeated Colerain since 1997 when Vince Harrison was the quarterback and Pat Mancuso was the Princeton coach.
Still, there is plenty of optimism around the Princeton program led by second-year head coach Mike Daniels, a former standout at the school who starred at the University of Cincinnati. He said Friday night has "huge ramifications" behind it.
"This is an exciting time to be a Viking," Daniels said. "This is an exciting time of the year for GMC play, and so we are fired up about it."
Princeton defeated visiting Milford 34-16 in the season opener Aug. 24 before taking down host Withrow 36-6 last week. Princeton had 569 yards of total offense in Week 1.
The Vikings are fronted by a number of statistical leaders, including senior Hosea Hairston, who has 245 yards passing and four touchdowns along with 25 carries for 166 yards.
Hairston admits Colerain is still the team to beat in the GMC, but he likes the culture from within the Vikings' program. He said Daniels has established a brotherhood among the players.
Hairston, who has scholarship offers from Bowling Green and Toledo, said Princeton has maintained the ‘Us versus the world' mentality.
"Just don't let outsiders tell you what you can and cannot do," Hairston said. "Because at the end of the season, everybody was saying that we were going to have a bad season and we weren't going to beat Milford because they were a playoff team, and we weren't going to beat Withrow.
"We're not going to listen to the outsiders. We're going to focus in on our own little situation in the locker room and on and off the field."
The backfield has been strong led by sophomore Thomas Boyd (276 yards, six touchdowns) and senior Trey Key (106 yards receiving, two touchdowns and 88 yards rushing).
In Week 2, the Vikings led 36-6 at halftime and limited Withrow to just two first downs for the game.
"Our defense is relentless," said Henry, one of the nation's top recruits in the 2020 class. "Coach Daniels is bringing back that old Princeton pride that (former) coach (Pat) Mancuso talked about not too long ago. Coach Daniels is bringing that back."
Daniels said the Vikings take a great deal of pride in their defense.
Along with Henry and junior outside linebacker Jaheim Thomas -- two heavily recruited players -- the Vikings are relying on senior safety Jermaine Wimpye (14 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception), junior cornerback Elijah Eberhardt (seven tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception), junior outside linebacker Juan Jarrett (five tackles), junior cornerback Jaedon Scarborough (four tackles) and senior defensive lineman Levaughn Wilson (three tackles).
"We've got guys playing really good," Daniels said. "This is the biggest test, obviously, and so we look forward to it."
Wimpye said Daniels has encouraged the Vikings to be well-conditioned for the season. He hopes it pays off Friday night.
"This game Friday is going to be the biggest game of my life," Wimpye said. "I'm going to go hard and go all out."
WCPO will have game highlights and scores from across the Tri-State during our Friday Football Frenzy coverage every Friday night at 11 p.m.