Big wins are great, but the encore is just as important.
Penn sprint football will travel to New Hampshire for a Saturday afternoon clash with Franklin Pierce. The Quakers are fresh off a 14-9 triumph over Army, Penn’s first head-to-head win since 2008 and Army’s second loss overall since 2011. It marked the first win over a service academy for every current Penn player.
The Red and Blue were ready for the Black Knights after last year’s 16-13, double-overtime loss in West Point. Playing lockdown defense, the Quakers surrendered just three field goals and forced three interceptions and two turnovers on downs to sever Army drives.
Penn struck first with 11:24 left in the first half on a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Mike McCurdy to sophomore wide receiver Aidan Kelly and followed it up with an 85-yard touchdown to junior wide receiver Andrew Sutton. Penn was able to play from ahead the entire game.
After a second-place finish in the CSFL last season, coach Bill Wagner thought Penn demonstrated it could play at the level of the league’s best teams, and on Saturday it beat one of them.
“It’s part of the leg that’s needed to win this league,” Wagner said. “You have to beat the service academies, and we’ve got one under our belt.”
Although the Quakers had plenty of time to reflect on last year’s loss, which was the last game in that season aside from a game against now-defunct Princeton, they won’t have nearly the time to celebrate their recent win. With a seven-game schedule, there is little room for off-games.
“Just because we beat one of our tougher opponents doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park the rest of the season,” Sutton said.
Led by McCurdy, the Quakers boast an explosive passing offense. Sutton has stepped up as the top target and his 158 yards and one touchdown against Army earned him CSFL Offensive Player of the Week honors and bumped him up to 289 yards and two touchdowns through two games. And after nine yards against Mansfield, Kelly produced 123 yards against Army and could be another key contributor opposite Sutton.
“We all felt that Andrew Sutton was going to step up, and he has a quarterback that can throw the ball deep and has a great arm and he’s able to make those plays down the field,” Wagner said.
On defense, junior linebacker Quinn Karam earned CSFL Defensive Player of the Week, but there have been many other impactful contributors including senior linebacker Robert Diorio with three interceptions, sophomore linebacker Tom Console with 16 tackles and senior defensive lineman Arthur D’Angelo with three sacks.
In last year’s matchup, the season opener for each team, Penn beat Franklin Pierce handily in a 51-7 rout. On offense, McCurdy threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns on 12 of 21 passing, adding another score on the ground. 109 of those yards and two touchdowns went to then-senior wide receiver Henry Mason. Sophomore running back Max Jones turned 16 rushes into 130 yards and two touchdowns. With Mason graduated and Jones out for the season with a broken ankle, expect a lot of sophomore running back Jake Klaus, who will look to bounce back from a rough game against a stout Army defense last week
After the loss to Penn and another loss at the hands of Cornell, the Ravens rebounded and won four of their five October games to close out the season in 2015. That included a 18-16 home victory over Navy the week after the Midshipmen defeated the Quakers 29-14 in Annapolis.
“They came on, they found a way in which to believe in themselves, and they started winning,” Wagner said of Pierce.
The 2016 season has been a mixed bag for Franklin Pierce through two games. The Ravens opened with a 24-6 win against Post before a 54-13 shellacking by Navy. So far, their offense has left something to be desired, as quarterback Jose Melo has completed just 29.2% of his passes and has two touchdowns to three interceptions. It hasn’t been much better on the ground, as running back Tyler Zech is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.
However, the Ravens’ strength comes from their defense, which has accumulated 22 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and three interceptions so far.
“They have a real good, aggressive, defensive team, “ Wagner said. “I think it’s going to be a very physical, tough game for both of us.”
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