Since its season schedule came out several months ago, Penn sprint football has had this weekend circled. Now, it's here.
This Friday, the Quakers head to Annapolis, Md. to take on Navy in the de facto CSFL South Division championship game. The Red and Blue (4-1, 2-0 South) and the Midshipmen (5-1, 2-0) are the only teams that are mathematically still in the hunt for the division title and a chance to face Army in the CSFL title game.
In previous years, these two teams would be fighting for second place after they both lost to Army. But with the introduction of divisions and a championship game, this game takes on a whole new significance.
"It's do-or-die. To get to the championship, we have to win this game," sophomore quarterback Eddie Jenkins said.
Jenkins will be leading Penn's productive offensive unit, which has averaged 38 points and over 400 yards per game, against the stout Navy defense. Led by defensive lineman Luke Coughlin and linebacker Sheppard Wilson, both of whom have been named CSFL Defensive Player of the Week this season, the Midshipmen's defense is averaging 14.2 points against and under 200 yards allowed per game.
The other side of the ball has an equally enticing matchup. Penn's defense has only given up more than 14 points once this season, but Navy's offense is averaging 32.5 points per game.
Regardless of who has the ball, the matchup will be difficult for the Quakers.
"They're always very tough," Jenkins said. "They're very smart, they study, they watch film, they know what we're going to do. So it just comes down to us executing to the best of our ability, and being strong up front."
But the Red and Blue have reason to be confident heading into the matchup. After their failed comeback against Army, the Quakers have posted two straight 40+ point performances, topping Cornell 45-14 and beating Post 42-7 this past weekend. The offense has been clicking on all cylinders, with seven rushing touchdowns in those games.
Moreover, Penn proved to be a much tougher opponent in its lone loss than Navy was. Both squads fell to Army, but the Quakers were able to hold the CSFL's best offense to just 24 points. On the other hand, Navy surrendered 40 points while only putting up six points of their own.
Even though each team has another game to play after this weekend, this showdown will decide the division. With the next-best divisional opponent, Chestnut Hill, sitting at 2-2, the winner of this game is guaranteed to have at least the best divisional record and the tiebreakers necessary to advance to the title game.
That game will almost certainly be a rematch with Army, who can capture the North Division title with a win over Cornell this weekend.
Penn's title defense comes down to this game. If they can prove victorious, they will have a shot to repeat as champions for the first time in program history. But if they falter, the title quest will be over.
With that in mind, you can expect the Red and Blue to give it everything they've got.
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