After all of the heart-stopping finishes that the Penn sprint football team withstood last year, one would be surprised to see that they only finished 3-5 in 2012.
This year, the Quakers hope to return to championship form and transform those narrow defeats into comfortable victories.
The Red and Blue will face a significant test right at the outset, though, taking on defending CSFL champion Army in their first game. Last season, the Black Knights’ option offense pulverized the Quakers, sending them to a 35-7 defeat. But this year, Penn has a chance to exact revenge before key games against Navy and C.W. Post.
“The schedule is what it is,” head coach Bill Wagner said. “[Army is] gonna be sky high in defending their championship. I hope to throw some things at them to keep it close and steal it at the end.”
If the Quakers want to improve this season, they will have to do it without one of their key players, now-graduated WR/DB Whit Shaw. Shaw was responsible for 998 all-purpose yards last season, 488 of which came in the air from then-sophomore quarterback Keith Braccia, making him by far the team’s leading receiver.
With his security blanket gone, Braccia will need to spread the ball around to secondary weapons like junior running back Mike Beamish and junior wide receiver Freddy Ordonez, a sentiment Wagner has noted.
“We have some great receivers coming back,” he said. “Andrew Donald is coming back, he’s 6-foot-2 and has great hands. A guy who really stepped up big was Nick Longtin, who had a great summer working out on his own, along with Freddy Ordonez who has a lot of experience. I look forward to our receiver corps stepping up.”
As Wagner adds, the Quakers have work in all aspects of the game, not just offense.
“Our defense did a good job shutting down the run, but getting beat on third down is why we lost a few games like at Post,” he said. “I’m really confident in … punter Mike Beamish. Our kick coverage needs to be strengthened, but our long snapper is back so we don’t have any excuses.”
The Quakers will have plenty of returnees hoping to maintain standout levels of performance from last year. Beamish averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season en route to amassing 725 rushing yards, while sophomore defensive end Mack Pierson amassed nine sacks. Their continued success, combined with improvements from other key players, could make Penn a force.
“I think our pass attack is going to surprise teams … and the defense is gonna have some major, major improvements.” Wagner said. “There is going to be some depth and a lot of competition [for playing time.]”
Perhaps, under Wagner’s guidance, the Quakers’ internal competition will lead to external success on the field and a CSFL championship.
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