Seniors are generally the foundation of varsity sports teams. But for Penn’s sprint football squad, they’re more like the mortar holding everyone together.
The sprint football seniors, all eight of them, will take to Franklin Field this Saturday to lead a very young Penn team (2-1, 1-1 CSFL) against undefeated Army (4-0, 3-0).
The leadership of the upperclassmen has been crucial this season for a team that has twice as many freshmen as seniors.
“More than ever it’s important for the seniors to set the example for these younger guys,” senior wide receiver Whit Shaw said.
The example the upperclassmen have set has been well received so far, as the Red and Blue have played all three games this season down to the wire and are riding a two-game winning streak.
“Each week we’re getting better,” coach Bill Wagner said. “Hopefully we’ve matured enough to eliminate those mistakes that can cost you, penalties and turnovers.”
For the upcoming clash with Army, however, the Quakers will need more than good ball security. The Black Knights’ offense has been on a roll, piling up over 48 points and 340 passing yards per game.
“We’ll have to control the game somehow — the run game as well as the short passing game — to really burn up a lot of time and get into position to score,” Wagner said. “Defensively we’ve got to create some turnovers because I expect them to pass the ball 40-50 times from a no-huddle offense the whole game.”
That could pose a problem for Penn’s young defense that has shut down the ground game this season but struggled against air attacks, giving up over 240 passing yards a game.
“We’re going to have to bring the hit to them … step up our pass defense,” Shaw said. “Army’s been throwing five or six touchdown passes a game. We’re going to have to at least cut that in half.”
That effort starts with the seniors. They’ll need to be both good leaders and good players this weekend.
“It’s really important that our four senior captains step up and really have a great game to encourage the young kids,” Wagner said. “They need to show it not only on the field but they have to continue to support and encourage and keep that level of intensity up no matter what happens.”
Facing an older, more experienced Army team could be the Quakers’ Achilles heel, unless Penn’s upperclassmen can fuse this group together quickly.
“It takes every one of the seniors,” Shaw said.
Wagner is confident in his team’s abilities, despite its youth.
“We can beat this team,” he said. “We just have to play one of our best games.”
If the seniors can keep this team together until the end Saturday, the Black Knights may find themselves running into a brick wall.
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