Penn sprint football will finally have its shot at redemption.
Six weeks ago, the Quakers (6-1, 4-0 South) were defeated 24-14 on its home turf by the Army Black Knights, a game that, at the time, was a devastating blow to the Red and Blue.
But this Friday night, Penn has the opportunity to return the favor and defend its 2016 CSFL title, as the two teams will once again square off, this time in West Point.
The game will represent the inaugural CSFL Championship, as the league replaced the previous system of simply awarding the title to the team with the best regular season record.
The Quakers will have 60 minutes on Friday to prove that they are better than the Penn team that took the field on September 30 versus Army (7-0, 3-0 North).
The Red and Blue will look to get off to a better start this time around, as they surrendered an early touchdown in the first meeting and didn’t get on the board until late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore quarterback Eddie Jenkins believes that the Quakers can get into the flow of the game more quickly, as the offense has taken tremendous strides since that matchup.
“We’ve become more confident as an offense,” Jenkins said. “We’ve played a lot better and have gone through several changes since [the first Army game].”
The defense, for its part, has improved its communication and knowledge of assignments.
“We’ve played enough games to where we’ve gotten our linebacker and defensive back coverage system down,” said freshman linebacker Matt Gorman, the team’s leading tackler with 60 on the year. “If we can stop the passes over the middle, [Army] won’t be capable of driving on us.”
This confidence on the defensive side of the ball is partly why the Quakers have given up just 13.4 points per game this season, a total that ranks second in the league behind (you guessed it) Army, who has allowed a mere 6.6 points per game.
Adding to the challenge for Penn is the fact that the showdown will take place at Army, a change of scenery from the matchup at Franklin Field earlier this year.
If there’s anybody that can knock off the Black Knights, though, it’s the Quakers.
Penn is no stranger to taking on West Point and coming out with a win. Last year’s team did so when it beat Army in a 14-9 slugfest early in the season, and coach Bill Wagner thinks his team has what it takes to do it again.
“Mentally, our team is prepared to go up [to West Point] and take on [Army],” said Wagner of his team that is made up of twelve freshmen. “The experience that we gained from that first game through the rest of the season has been valuable.”
Another significant element in this one will be the weather, as the low temperatures for the night are expected to hover at around 20 degrees, with wind also playing a factor.
Penn will seek to remain focused on the task at hand despite the inclement road conditions.
Gorman, even as a freshman, knows the importance of players staying within themselves and not trying to do too much.
“We have to stay calm and remember what we’re capable of,” Gorman said. “We’ll be amped up and ready, but we have to remind ourselves that the only way we lose this game is if we beat ourselves.”
Penn will enter Friday night with this mindset, as its quest for back-to-back CSFL titles will be complete with just one more win.
Jenkins, for one, can’t wait to get started.
“We’re excited to hit the road, face this challenge, and hopefully win a championship in [Army’s] building,” the quarterback said.
In the end, all of the heartbreak, all of the disappointment, all of the frustration that resulted from the Quakers’ first loss against Army is now irrelevant — because this is the one that counts.
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