New quarterback, no problem.
In his first career start for Penn sprint football, sophomore Eddie Jenkins looked more than capable of replacing the graduated two-time Collegiate Sprint Football League MVP Mike McCurdy. Jenkins gashed Caldwell for 85 yards and one touchdown on the ground and 191 yards and three touchdowns through the air, almost all of which came in the first half of the Quakers' 69-6 victory over the Cougars.
“I think we came out confident as a team, and we were able to do some good things on both sides of the ball,” Jenkins said, crediting his team's three weeks of preparation behind the big win.
Jenkins also credited McCurdy and current senior backup quarterback Zack DiGregorio for teaching him what it takes to be a successful college quarterback.
From the start, it was obvious Caldwell (0-1) was no match for the defending CSFL champions. Trying to hang with the Quakers (1-0) is a tall task for most teams, but it was an even harder task for Caldwell, who was playing its first ever sprint football game.
Despite the much-anticipated debut of Jenkins, the story of the game for Penn was the Madden-esque stat line put up by junior running back Jake Klaus. Despite only playing in the first half, Klaus racked up 208 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. Klaus was a juggernaut, averaging 10.9 yards per carry and 27.5 yards per reception. As a team, Penn put up a monstrous 370 yards on the ground.
Both Klaus and Jenkins credited the success to the offensive line.
“In the three years I’ve been here, I've never seen a line this good,” Klaus said. “Really it all goes to them for opening up holes for me. I didn't really have to do much after that. On the ground all the success goes to them.”
Though the holes were big, Klaus was frequently able to shake off would-be tacklers once he got past the line.
Though the game turned out to be an easy win, playing a team in its first career game provides a unique challenge: no game film. Luckily, Penn was not left completely in the dark.
“We did have a verbal scouting report, head coach to head coach,” coach Bill Wagner said. “We had a pretty good idea of what we were going to line up against.”
Though game film is the more preferred way to scout opponents, the Quakers had no problem taking care of business with the information they had.
One of the most-hyped moments of the game came when it was already out of reach.
With 9:56 left in the fourth quarter, Wagner and special teams coach Ralph Roesler trotted out backup freshman kicker Ben Robinov to kick the PAT instead of sophomore Theodoros Papazekos. With five family members in attendance, Robinov drilled his only attempt to give the Quakers 69 points, causing his personal fan section and the sideline to go wild.
“I was definitely nervous but psyched to hear my name called,” Robinov reflected. “When I got out there I just mentally took myself back to practice when I was hitting them and focused on the fundamentals of kicking.”
Though his extra point was not crucial to helping the Quakers win, the successful PAT meant a lot to him and his family.
“My uncle filmed the extra point and in the video you can hear my family going crazy,” Robinov said. “I was really nice to have their support and I thank them for coming out. It feels really good to know that my family was there and I was making them proud.”
Still, this game was much bigger than the final score would indicate. The game had an electric atmosphere. Sounds from Caldwell’s band and cheers from its fans reverberated throughout the stadium. The Cougar's side of the bleachers was filled to the brim, with many fans having to stand near the fence to view the game.
“It was a big day for Caldwell,” Wagner said.
Looking ahead, Penn faces its next challenge in next week’s opponent, Chestnut Hill, who only lost to CSFL powerhouse Navy by 10 points last weekend. Following Chestnut Hill (0-1), the Quakers will then take on Army — a huge test for their title defense.
“When we practice, we are going against one of the best defenses in the league, so practicing on them is going to help us against stronger opponents like Army and Navy.” Klaus said. “Everyday in practice we are competing and getting better.”
Beating up on a lesser opponent is nice, but the key for the Quakers will be avoiding complacency as their schedule gets inevitably harder.
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