Up in Rindge, N.H., lies Franklin Pierce. Perhaps it’s not an institution that Penn students hear about frequently in the world of Penn athletics, but for the 49 players on the Quakers’ sprint football roster, it’s a household name nonetheless.
This weekend, Penn sprint football will officially begin its season against its New England rival, under the sun at Franklin Field on Saturday. And against a big name or not, the Red and Blue are ready to leave their long offseason behind and get back to competitive action on the field.
“I think our kids are ready to play against someone other than ourselves and our alums,” coach Bill Wagner said.
Though the Ravens are not an unfamiliar foe, the squad was only brought into the league in 2012, a recent addition compared to Penn’s 1934 entry.
“They’re a pretty good team that we’ve had close games with the past three years,” senior Brendan Dale said.
And to hear the squad’s leader say it himself, the Quakers are prepared for yet another tight-fisted affair.
“Franklin Pierce has been a tough opponent since they joined the league,” Wagner said. “Two years ago we beat them on the last play of the game. ... And last year we beat them 14-7.”
“Almost all three of the games came down to the fourth quarter, so we are definitely expecting a good challenge from them, but one we can handle,” Dale added.
In the two teams’ brief history, neither has proved themselves to be completely dominant over the other. However, the Red and Blue feel that they have reloaded their roster to match anything the Ravens have to throw at them.
“I think our defense is really solid now,” Dale said. “We have no holes on defense for the first time in a long time, and our offensive skills are as good as they’ve been. Our receivers looked really good all preseason, and our two freshmen running backs are looking exciting.”
Of course, those two rookie running backs have big shoes to fill.
In the upcoming season, they are faced with the tall task of attempting to replace graduated senior Mike Beamish, who was consistently one of the team’s top offensive weapons throughout his collegiate career.
However, while it would be naive to expect someone of Beamish’s caliber to be easily replaced, the team’s hopes are high that the freshmen will at least make an impact of their own going into this first contest.
Although there is certainly a strong contingent of freshmen looking to make an impact, the team also has its fair share of veterans, particularly on the offensive line and at quarterback. And they are looking to take advantage.
“We are going to see what we can do to put the ball in the air,” Dale said. “We are confident in [Mike] McCurdy, our quarterback, so we are going to give him a lot more freedom to open up the game a little bit more rather than handing off up the middle all the time, so give him freedom to make calls at the line and try to read defenses.”
The team’s opening matchup against Franklin Pierce will be the first test of the Quakers’ new strategy, and only time will tell how it will translate to the field. Regardless, though, fans can expect a competitive game and an excited Red and Blue team.
“They don’t quit, they play all four quarters, play hard,” Wagner said. “We’d like to send them back to New Hampshire with a long bus ride.”
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