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SHARONVILLE, Ohio — Princeton senior quarterback MJ Horton has heard plenty of criticism about the Vikings this summer.
“There is hate all over,” said Horton, who transferred from La Salle for this school year. “But I like that though. I like that people want to put us down saying we ain’t going to be nothing. I like that.”
Princeton (3-7 in 2018) hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007. The Vikings haven’t won a Greater Miami Conference title since 2003 (co-champions with perennial power Colerain).
The Vikings had to forfeit multiple wins in mid-September 2018 due to the use of an ineligible player.
“It did hit us hard,” senior safety Juan Jarrett said.
Yet, the Vikings had renewed optimism this spring and summer. Princeton was arguably the most discussed area team this offseason with a talented core of players and a handful of transfers.
The most prominent transfer was standout offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who transferred from St. Xavier and is rated Ohio’s No. 1 recruit in the 2020 class while being verbally committed to Ohio State.
Princeton coach Mike Daniels said the Vikings aren’t concerned with what others say about the team outside of the community.
“It is what it is,” Daniels said. “We are a transient school in general. We have kids come and go. It’s just our location and where we are. We are open enrollment.”
Daniels said his primary focus is to help the Vikings reach both of their goals – a return trip to the playoffs and a GMC title – and more importantly the development of dozens of young men. Daniels isn’t preoccupied with what others might say about the team.
“It’s white noise,” Daniels said. “Because at the end of day it’s about kids, and that’s why I am doing it. I don’t hear a lot of negative energy. I don’t go on Yappi. I don’t go on all these sites anyway, so I don’t hear much of it. And usually people that have that opinion about you won’t say that to your face. So I don’t hear it.”
The players don’t seem to be fazed either. The standouts have embraced the spotlight. There is Johnson, senior defensive end Darrion Henry (Ohio State) and senior linebacker Jaheim Thomas (UC) among the state’s other top-rated players. Jarrett is committed to Kansas, while cornerback Elijah Eberhardt is committed to Bowling Green.
“I’m happy,” Thomas said. “I’m excited because I know we have all the talent to back up the spotlight we have.”
The Vikings will be a team to watch starting right out of the gate when Princeton plays at Milford in the season opener Aug. 30.
“The culture that we are going to have this year is going to be swag,” Horton said. “We got that swag culture. It’s going to be a powerful brotherhood. Everybody is going to have high energy. They love the game. They love Mike Daniels. They love the coaches. They love everything about this place. So what we are going to bring here is going to be big. Everybody is going to want to see it.”
Johnson said he received plenty of criticism when he left his previous school, but he has turned the page and bonded with his new teammates.
“I’m just taking some of the things that I learned there as far as the culture,” Johnson said. “That’s one thing at St. X – we made up for a lot of the athleticism that we didn’t have with discipline and culture. If you work as if you don’t have the talent, then I feel you can go great places.”
Daniels said this season has the potential to be a new chapter. Princeton has 14 state playoff appearances including three state titles (1987, 1983 and 1978).
“This has been Princeton for 40 years,” Daniels said. “And so what we’re doing is getting back to what Princeton is. It’s a diverse atmosphere with talented kids, talented people, great resources. It’s a great place to be and so all we are doing is getting back to our roots."
WCPO's Keenan Singleton contributed to this story.