The last time sprint football took the field against Princeton, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. In the culminating effort of the season, the Quakers trounced the Tigers, 70-0, to clinch the league title.
Friday at 7 p.m. under the lights of Franklin Field, the Red and Blue will be looking for the same dominating performance as they once again face Princeton, this time in the second preseason game.
In such a matchup, the potential for complacency to sneak in is always a threat. With many new players replacing graduated seniors, however, this team still has something to prove.
“We have a lot of young guys playing and we have to replace a lot of seniors, so we’re looking for a lot of them to step up,” senior linebacker Matt Cuccinello said.
The most studied position of the night will be that of running back. The team is looking for someone to step up and fill the gaping whole left by Mike Bagnoli, who was a critical factor in the Quakers’ championship run last year.
“We’re going to try some new things out and hopefully get a bunch of kids some touches and see who’s going to turn into the future back,” senior quarterback Todd Busler said.
The Red and the Blue won’t have to stress too much in the search for a new running back, however, as the offense will still be bolstered by Busler’s return, as well as the return of junior wide-receiver Whit Shaw, who already holds the league record in total receiving yards.
“We have all of our receivers back and most of the O-line so we’re going to throw the ball a lot,” Busler said.
Regardless of how the run-pass ratio this season plays out, coach Bill Wagner is confident in his team thus far, especially with the core of veterans leading the team.
“The first kids on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, make a good football team and work very, very hard,” Wagner said. “It’s the depth behind them because we have a lot of young kids, a lot of freshman who are going to be in starting roles.”
With so many young players, Wagner plans on using the Princeton game as a practice-run toward league play beginning next week.
“We’re going to check out all of our offensive and defensive packages that we’re putting together to make those things really work, organization on sideline management, making sure we have everybody on the field.”
Despite what may be seen as a simple tune-up toward the regular season, both coach and players are certain not too overlook an improving Princeton squad.
“They have a new coach this year, so the new coach is definitely going to have them prepared, wanting to start off the year right with his first game,” Cuccinello said.
“They have some skilled kids,” Wagner added. “They just have small numbers right now and we have to go out and play this game like it’s a big game. And it is Princeton, it’s our arch-rival.”
Even with questions lingering at key positions, Wagner’s has full confidence in his team:
“We expect to beat Princeton; we expect to win with class. We’ll never look past them because they are the next opponent, that’s why you have to play the game.”