Even after losing five 2017 All-Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) players to injuries and graduation and its briefly going without its starting quarterback due to injury, Penn sprint football still has a chance to reach its ultimate goal — a CSFL championship.
Under the Friday night lights of Franklin Field, the Quakers will welcome Navy in a rematch of last season’s de facto south division championship. With a win in the final home game of the year, the Red and Blue can punch a ticket to their second-straight CSFL title game.
After displaying one of the best offenses in the league in 2017, Penn sprint football (3-2, 2-1 South) struggled out of the gate after junior quarterback Eddie Jenkins went down with an injury against Cornell in the second game of the season. He was forced to miss next week’s 31-26 loss to Chestnut Hill, a game in which the offense committed three turnovers.
The offense’s struggles continued in Jenkins’s return. After losing 28-6 at Army two weeks ago, the Quakers got back on track last week dismantling Caldwell 38-14 behind a strong performance from CSFL Offensive Player of the Week senior running back Jake Klaus.
“We knew we could exploit [Caldwell] ... that we were better than them, and now we can take that momentum into Navy,” Klaus said.
While the Red and Blue were confident they would defeat Caldwell, a much stronger opponent awaits in Navy (4-1, 3-0), a team that boasts the league's second-ranked scoring offense and defense. It’s lone loss on the season was a 17-14 loss against defending champions and still undefeated Army.
“In order to win this league you are going to have to go through the academies,” coach Bill Wagner said.
Last year, Penn found success against Navy in a 28-23 victory. But that team was undefeated in regular season play other than a narrow loss against Army.
This game will feature of battle of strengths, with Navy leading the league in rushing offense and Penn leading the league in rushing defense. The Midshipmen have two of the CSFL’s top four rushers in running back Caleb Champion and quarterback Brayden Chmiel. The Quakers defense will look to follow Army’s lead, as it held Champion under 100 yards a mere 3.3 yards per carry.
The defense has kept Penn in most games this season, and will need to do so again if the Quakers hope to pull off the upset.
While this week’s game may prove to be a challenge for the Red and Blue, it’s been overcoming adversity all season.
“We've battled through an awful lot of injuries, infections, and sickness all season and we rallied,” Wagner said.
From an injury to their star quarterback early in the season, to a team-wide infection last week that severely restricted practices, the Quakers still have a chance to change the trajectory of their season.
In a game with everything on the line, Klaus did not mince words when describing the team’s anticipation.
“If we can’t get up for this, then we shouldn’t be playing football.”
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