If there’s one thing Penn sprint football hates, it’s sharing.
They’ve been Collegiate SprintFootball League champions five times in the last eighty years – and shared the title four of those times. Now, as they approach the finale of the CSFL's postseason-less eight-week duration, Penn won’t settle for anything less than an exclusive and undisputed championship.
The Quakers will square off against Post in Waterbury, Ct. this Saturday. Penn is the only undefeated team left in the league, but both service academies, each with a record of 5-1, are chomping at the bit to catch them. It’s not just a possibility, but a certainty that should the Quakers fall to Post this weekend, the winner of Saturday’s Army-Navy game in Annapolis will tie Penn’s record. It’s truly do-or-die for Penn if they want the solo CSFL title for the first time since 2000.
One doesn’t need to be particularly optimistic to acknowledge that this game is Penn’s to lose. At first glance, it seems the cards are all but stacked in their favor. Penn will go into Saturday’s game with a perfect 6-0 record. Post will go in 0-6. Penn has had six CSFL Players of the Week so far, whether it Marcus Jones, Andrew Sutton and Mike McCurdy on offense, or Quinn Karam and Tom Console on defense.
But the Quakers aren’t letting that go their heads, and for good reason. Penn almost lost their undefeated streak last week in a nail-biter finish against underdog Cornell.
“I think our kids have regained their focus,” offensive coordinator Jerry McConnell said. “There was a lot of excitement about clinching at home and our focus wasn’t great in the first half, but the kids came out in the second half and were ready to go.”
Post is a small for-profit college located not far from New Haven. They’ve been competing in the CSFL since 2010. It is senior night in Waterbury on Saturday, and though their record so far this year is undeniably poor, the future of their program looks bright.
“They’ve got a lot of speed, they’ve got a lot of skilled kids that can play,” head coach Bill Wagner noted.
“Their numbers are down a little bit this year, but they’ve got a new coach who’s instilling a lot of discipline in their program. He’s an ex-Naval Academy coach who I think will turn their program around. I just hope he doesn’t turn it around for our game,” he laughed.
When asked about Post’s strengths, McConnell made sure to emphasize their exceptionally aggressive defense.
“I think they’re going to present us the opportunity to throw the ball, and we just have to execute and take care of business,” he said.
Though some teams might see this as a game to play conservatively, McConnell says that the Quakers won’t be holding back at all this weekend. “There’s no change. We’re focused on executing the things that we want to get done this week and run our offense normally,” he said. “We’re gonna attack them just like we attack everybody else.”
Senior quarterback Mike McCurdy emphasized that the key to avoiding a close call like last week is focusing on playing your own game.
“It’s all about playing up to your standards, not playing to the opponents’,” he said. “We know we’re a good team... It’s all about keeping people sharp, and holding people to the standard that you know they’re capable of across the board, including myself.”
“We’re focused. We’re confident but we’re focused,” McCurdy continued. “We know 7-0 is a hell of a lot better than 6-1, and there’s no reason we should lose to this team.”
Winning year is especially important for this year’s seniors (who all, incidentally, support our nation’s troops vehemently).
“It means a lot, when we come here as freshmen it’s what we’re working for all four years, and every year it’s been our goal at the start of the season,” said McCurdy. “This year we were finally able to pull it off. It’s a great feeling, there was a lot of hard work that went into it, I’m just happy for this whole team, especially the seniors and the coaching staff, it’s been awesome.”
“We’ve been really working hard for this four years slowly improving, and this is it this is the year,” said senior left back Rob Diorio. “It means everything.”
The game will kick off at noon this Saturday. This contest will conclude Quakers’ 2016 season, and ultimately determine if Penn is this year’s true sprint football national champion.
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