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Sprint Football vs Navy Loss 21-19 Credit: Marcus Katz , Marcus Katz

Penn sprint football came into Saturday night against a heavily favored Navy team and the odds stacked against it.

The Red and Blue ultimately lost, 21-19, to the Midshipmen, but they were able to find success in different ways in their third game on the year.

Namely, chasing an undefeated Navy team — that has not lost to an opponent other than Army for four years — down to the wire. The Quakers (2-1) limited the Midshipmen (3-0), who had scored 89 points in their previous two games, to just 21 on the night.

“The defense played good enough for us to win,” coach Bill Wagner said. “They only gave up two plays the whole game, which happened to be two touchdown runs. They never packed it in and played hard enough to stop a high-powered offense.”

Those two big touchdowns came from star Navy running back Eric Wellmon, whose 42-yard run in the third quarter tied the game at 14, and wide receiver Matthew Hite, who caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Hampton at the end of the third quarter.

Wellmon rushed for his first touchdown in the second quarter to put Navy on the board, 7-0, as part of a 191-yard rushing effort. The Quakers, however, were able to limit Hampton to 169 passing yards.

“We prepared really well for this game,” said junior defensive end/linebacker Ed Cai, who sacked Hampton in the fourth quarter to force a safety, bringing the Quakers within two at the eventual final score.

“Our coaches schemed really well for this game,” Cai continued, reiterating the two big touchdown plays by Navy as the Penn defense’s only miscues.

Cai, freshman linebacker Quinn Karam and junior linebacker/defensive back Stu Hegelson led the defensive effort for the Quakers.

Penn looked strong on offense as well. Sophomore quarterback Mike McCurdy passed for 237 yards, connecting for two scores with sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Mario del Cueto.

Del Cueto, who received limited playing time as a defensive back last year, has become an integral part of the Quakers offense in the 2014 season. He tallied 108 receiving yards against Navy and has caught three touchdown passes overall on the year.

“He was on the defense for about the first week, but we had some guys get injured and had to move some people over. He came to me and said, ‘I want to play some offense,’” Wagner said. “He’s made some big catches.

“This is his first year playing as a starter in this league, and he’s doing great.”

Despite del Cueto’s strong performance, however, the Quakers had a difficult time around the line of scrimmage, with senior running back and team captain Mike Beamish struggling at times to break through Navy’s powerful defense. Moreover, McCurdy was sacked seven times throughout the game for a total loss of 51 yards.

The Midshipmen was not without their own mistakes either, committing eight penalties for a total loss of 77 yards. Nevertheless, their strong defense and the excellent performance from Wellmon helped the team defeat the Quakers.

Ultimately, the Quakers took a team that’s 61-6 over the past ten years down to the game’s final seconds and came up short by only two points.

“[Navy] is a tough team. They’re a good football team,” noted Wagner. “We’ve got to go one game at a time.”

The Red and Blue will look to get back in the win column at Franklin Pierce next weekend.

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