Goodbyes are always difficult, especially when it means saying goodbye to a place like Franklin Field.
This Saturday, Penn football (6-2, 3-2 Ivy) will be playing its final home game of the year, marking the last time the senior players compete in front of the crowd at The Frank. Senior Day is not only an important one for the seniors themselves, but also for the rest of their Penn football family.
“It’s always been special. It’s been now 32 years of watching freshmen walk on Franklin Field as a first time experience, and have their last experience here [as seniors],” coach Ray Priore said. “It’s special; the kids have worked hard. Those kids will be feeling a little different playing in their last [home] game.”
Adding to the excitement is the fact that this weekend is Homecoming for the Red and Blue.
On the opposing sideline, trying to spoil Penn’s big day, will be Harvard (4-4, 2-3), which comes into this matchup after an impressive 52-18 win against Columbia last weekend. The Crimson are in the middle of the pack in the Ivy League standings, but they played tough against both Dartmouth and Princeton, losing to each in a one possession game.
Sophomore running back Aaron Shampklin has been a breakout player this year for Harvard. The Southern California product leads the Ivy League in rushing with 916 yards and has added nine touchdowns.
“He’s a talented young man,” Priore said. “He’s one of a lot of talented young players that they have on their team at running back, wide receiver, quarterback. All over the place, they’ve got some talented kids – kids that we know about, that we recruited back in the day.”
That the Crimson have a talented squad is nothing new. But something that cannot be denied is that the Quakers have had their number in recent years. The Red and Blue are 3-0 against Harvard in the Priore era, with two of those wins coming when the Crimson were ranked in the top 25 in the FCS.
Additionally, Penn enters this contest with a bit of momentum, winning its previous two games versus Brown and Cornell. Junior running back Karekin Brooks promises to be a key player on Saturday, as he has racked up 861 yards and eight scores on the ground already this season. Under center, both sophomore Ryan Glover and junior Nick Robinson have taken snaps in the last two games, with Glover starting in both contests.
As if this matchup itself, combined with the excitement of Senior Day and Homecoming, was not enough, the Quakers will be taking part in a team tradition – the Harvard haircuts.
The Harvard haircuts are the absurd, crazy cuts that every player gets ahead of each season’s matchup against the Crimson.
“It’s just one of those things, it’s tradition, it’s been around since I’ve been here,” senior left tackle and captain Tommy Dennis said. “It’s a fun thing that we do, and it gets the freshmen involved and everything. It’s something that’s been here before I have, and we’re gonna continue it, and it’s just another one of those things that adds to the Penn legacy and tradition.”
This annual tradition is clearly a fun one, but the players have to be careful when they go to the barber shop.
“People have interviews and stuff, so we’ve kind of been pushing it to the end of the week,” Dennis said. “So I’m getting mine tonight. I know a bunch of the seniors have been doing interviews and stuff like that, so we’re trying to get it over that weekend gap. But I know a bunch of the freshmen have some hair dying. That’s a big freshman thing, dying your hair, because you don’t realize how long it takes to get out.”
Despite this light-hearted endeavor by the players, they will be all business come Saturday afternoon, especially because they have the opportunity to inch closer to the top spot in the conference. The team is currently in third place behind Dartmouth and Princeton and has a slim chance of emerging as the Ivy champion when it’s all said and done.
So while looking good will be important on Saturday, playing well will be the top priority.
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