If you ask any sprint football player what kind of game they like to play, more times than not they’ll answer with phrases like “physical,” “competitive” and “dramatic”.
Penn’s upcoming matchup with Army should to fit all of those descriptions. The defending CSFL champion Black Knights (0-0) pose a daunting task for the Red and Blue (0-0), who have fallen victim to a number of injuries and unfortunate personnel changes.
Last season, Army marched into Franklin Field and pulverized Penn, leaving a nasty 35-7 black mark on an already tumultuous campaign. That game saw the Quakers’ “D” surrender 590 total offensive yards to a Black Knights squad led by the CSFL Player of the Year, quarterback Javier Sustaita.
And it won’t help the Quakers’ cause that junior wide receiver Nick Longtin left the team for undisclosed reasons this week. Longtin had been expected to play a substantial role in what looked like a promising offensive attack with him still on board.
But at least the Red and Blue won’t have to worry about the now-graduated Sustaita when they take on Army. Instead, they will look to contain senior running back Marquis Morris, who gashed the Quakers last season for 109 yards and three touchdowns.
“We just have to make sure that we take it to them,” Penn coach Bill Wagner said. “[We need] to answer them and their hard charge right in the beginning. That’s their tactic, that’s how they play,”
The defense feels confident in its ability to walk into West Point and be physical with the offense. Some players, such as freshman Robert Diorio and sophomore Derek Shnider, showed they were up for the task in the alumni game last week. Despite giving up a few big plays early in the con- test, the secondary shut down the alumni passing attack. Diorio was a force, notching 5.5 tackles and two sacks that game.
“We are working on our no-huddle defense with hand signals and plays coming in,” Shnider said. “We are making sure that at least those in the linebacking corps know every position so that if you get stuck in one part on the field and they snap the ball you know what you’re supposed to do.”
The bigger question mark is how the offense looks to handle itself. Recently, the offense lost two targets in both Longtin and senior Andrew Donald (injury) in an already thin receiving corps. Junior running back Mike Beamish and sophomore running back Joe Raso will have to create most of the offense and try to grind down the Army defense to open the passing game.
What is certain is the confidence in both quarterbacks: junior Keith Braccia and freshman Mike McCurdy. The receiving corps may be dangerously thin but they are are confident that if they’re open, they will get the ball.
“You could definitely look back at the alumni game about it, we had five or six different receivers touch the ball,” senior wide receiver Freddy Ordonez said. “We are definitely spreading the ball around … I feel like all the receivers have done their best to step up.”
The key for Penn is to limit the speed of Army’s offense. If the defense can keep the Black Knights off the field and allow running backs Beamish and Raso to grind down Army, the Quakers will have a better chance at putting up points in West Point.
“I know every day is my last day,” Ordonez said. “A lot of the guys out here have the same enthusiasm as me, and I can’t wait for Friday, we are just ready to go.”
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