jakeklaus

Junior running back Jake Klaus (20) figures to be a key player in the Quakers' title defense this year.

Photo: Peter Ribeiro

Penn sprint football is back, and just like always, the season started with a blast from the past.

The current Quaker squad walloped a team of alumni by the score of 31-14 in the annual Alumni Weekend showdown this Saturday. The game was followed by a BBQ for friends and family to cap a weekend of celebration for Quakers past and present.

The game was robbed of one of its marquee players — 2017 graduate Mike McCurdy — just minutes before kickoff. McCurdy, a two-time CSFL MVP and the record-holder for most passing yards in program history,  went down with a knee injury while warming up, and didn't touch the field for the entire game.

McCurdy's absence changed the entire dynamic of the contest, as a talented alumni squad was left to play without its star.

"It's a shame," coach Bill Wagner said. "He was warming up, he took a bad step. I mean he was ready to go, he had a bunch of receivers. That's what we were scared about, that they were going to test our secondary."

Unlike last year's 26-21 nail-biter, this year's game was a one-sided affair from the beginning. Penn opened up the scoring with rushing touchdowns from both junior running back Jake Klaus and sophomore quarterback Eddie Jenkins to take an early 14-0 lead just 15 minutes into the game. The quick start bodes well for the Quakers, as scoring early was one of the hallmarks from last year's title run.

"I thought the alums were really showing up with some solid returning players," Wagner said. "But our kids came out right in the beginning and really hit them right away. And we blocked around the ball well, executed on both sides of the ball, we even did really well kicking."

The Red and Blue's defense stood tall for most of the first half, but an alumni drive late in the half, capped off by a 13-yard rushing touchdown from 2015 graduate Mike Beamish cut the current squad's lead to 14-6, which remained the score at the halfway point. 

In the second half, Penn came out strong again, with Klaus scoring his second touchdown of the day on the opening drive. Penn continued to tack on more points, and the alumni scored again late in the half to cap the scoring for the day.

As always, the alumni game is about far more than just the score. The weekend represents a great opportunity for continued growth of the culture around the program, which is something Wagner has emphasized for years.

"It's keeping a family atmosphere of giving back," he said. "They do it in a lot of different ways, it's not just financially. They do give finances to us, but it's so important for that camaraderie, the mentoring, the relationships."

The game also represents the first time freshmen suit up for the Red and Blue. With the coaching staff's emphasis on having everyone play in this game, the alumni game allows the young Quakers to get valuable, game-like experience right before the start of the season.

"It's important, we work for this," senior quarterback Zack DiGregorio said. "We play hard, we try to get everybody reps, and it's really the first game action a lot of these younger guys are seeing."  

The Quakers' title defense kicks off next weekend at Caldwell, but if the alumni game was any indication, they'll be more than ready.

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