Close, but no cigar.
Penn sprint football mounted a fourth-quarter comeback against Army on Friday, but fell in double overtime, 16-13. With the loss, the Quakers (4-2) were eliminated from Collegiate Sprint Football League title contention, which will ultimately go to either Army (6-0) or Navy, who are both undefeated and will play head-to-head this coming week.
With both teams boasting strong defenses, there was not much offensive production throughout the night. Penn had only 189 yards of total offense while Army managed 246 yards. Freshman Max Jones rushed 16 times for 56 yards and junior Mike McCurdy completed only 18 of 37 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.
After both teams failed to get on the scoreboard in the first quarter, the Black Knights established a lead after a 27-yard reception by Austin Breed set up a 48-yard field goal from Warren Kay. That 3-0 advantage would remain the score come halftime.
On their first possession of the second half, the Quakers went three-and-out. After Marqus Burrell picked up a first down, Army quarterback Brady Miller ran 65 yards to the house for the game’s first touchdown.
“Defensively, we played extremely well. We did a super job,” Penn coach Bill Wagner said. “There was probably one play in the game ... where their quarterback had a big run that caught us off guard on an inside zone ride. He kept it and went off the edge to the short side of the field and ran ... for a touchdown.
“That was their score. Other than that the defense shut them down.”
Going into the fourth quarter, the Red and Blue had yet to score. But after getting the ball back at their own 42 with 12:11 remaining, the Quakers trekked into the red zone with McCurdy connections to senior Henry Mason and sophomore Jonathan Lilley. Mario del Cueto’s 35-yard attempt was good, making the score 10-3 Army with 8:16 remaining.
By converting on the kick, del Cueto became the first person to score against the Black Knights since the final game of 2014. In not allowing a point this season, Army had put together a shutout streak of over 383 minutes of game play.
On the subsequent possession, the Red and Blue forced a punt, which resulted in excellent field position after the Black Knights were flagged for interfering with Jones’ fair catch. After driving down the field, McCurdy hit senior Jack Epstein for a 20-yard touchdown on third down, and del Cueto converted the extra point attempt to knot the game at 10 apiece with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On their last drive of regulation, the Black Knights could not get going on offense, going three-and-out after sophomore Quinn Karam sacked Miller on third-and-eight.
With two completions to Mason, the Quakers advanced to the Army 22. However, they slipped out of comfortable field goal range after a nine-yard loss on second-and-five. Del Cueto lined up for a 49-yard kick with four seconds left, but it was off the mark.
In the first overtime period, both teams kicked short field goals after breaching the opponent’s 10-yard line, as Kay and later del Cueto converted 24- and 22-yard kicks, respectively. Penn started on offense in the second overtime, but could not get moving, and del Cueto’s 37-yard attempt was short. On the ensuing possession, Kay was accurate from 34, giving the Black Knights the victory.
“Overall, I felt bad for my seniors because they’re going to be graduating, and they had a shot to win the league,” Wagner said. “I told our kids at the end of the game that I was very proud of them. I think they gave everything that they could. They left everything on the field.
“Everyone on this team was into the game to win it.”
Penn concludes its season on Friday, hosting Princeton at Franklin Field for Senior Night.
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