Step aside vets, these rookies came to play.
Penn sprint football has started the season 2-0 thanks to the help of some key freshman talent. So far, the Quakers have outscored their opponents 89-13 with new faces contributing on both sides of the ball.
In the team's last game against Chestnut Hill, first-year linebackers Matt Gorman and Connor Ashton anchored the Quakers' defense, providing 14 combined tackles, including two tackles for a loss (and one a sack).
“I just wanted to come out, do my best, and play some more football,” Ashton said, after being asked about how his performance so far might lead more players to rely on him.
Coach Bill Wagner, a central cog in the Quakers' stellar recruiting, really admires the unmatched effort these newcomers have displayed so far.
“They are gems,” Wagner said. “They came to play right away, and they’re outstanding students as well.”
He attributes this stream of fresh talent to Penn’s terrific academic record, specifically referring to Michael Doulong, a freshman defensive back.
“He chose Penn because he wanted that great education,” Wagner insisted.
A critical factor during recruitment is the level of versatility demonstrated by the prospects.
“We looked for people who could play no particular position,” Wagner said as he pointed out that his two freshman backup quarterbacks, Barry Klein and Joshua Trybus, see the field in many different ways, playing wide receiver and even defensive back.
Freshman Jack Schaible starts for this year’s offensive line, which may have the potential to be one of the best lines in Penn’s history.
“I felt a little more pressure having to play as a freshman, just getting used to the speed of the league,” said Schaible, whose initial worry was followed by staunch enthusiasm. “Every week is do-or-die, and that adds a lot more excitement before each game."
The Quakers' next game is against Army, an annual contender for the Collegiate Sprint Football League championship, thus putting these freshmen to the test.
“It’s a title game,” Wagner remarked.
“It’s definitely a big game, but nothing changes. Our game plan is the same,” Ashton said, who believes the Quakers will come out on top.
Perhaps his confidence is due to the mentoring atmosphere on the team. Wagner explained how he believed it was his upperclassmen's job to cultivate the rookies so that they could contribute to the team as early as possible.
And, thankfully for the Quakers, this belief has rung true.