This year’s Penn sprint football alumni game had special meaning for both sidelines, as it marked the beginning of the last season for coach Bill Wagner.
The Quakers took the field on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to play in the annual alumni game. As Wagner enters his 50th and final season as coach of the Penn sprint football, the alumni weekend was about looking back on his long career at Penn. In line with recent alumni game history, this year’s game was a 44-0 blowout in favor of the current Penn team.
The alumni game is always an enjoyable event for alumni, as they get a chance to come back to Franklin Field and reunite with old teammates. However, this weekend had a more emotional touch as they celebrate Wagner’s career and the impact he has had on Penn sprint football.
Former foreign exchange student Henrik Ager played for Penn in 1992 and travels to Penn each year from Sweden, planning his job around the game. Former wide receiver Dave Lopez was actually unsure that he would be able to play in the game after getting hurt playing baseball over the summer.
“Once I heard the announcement, I made the decision that I was going [to play] because if for nothing else just to be here to pay my respects,“ Lopez said. “This program actually changed my experience at Penn, so it was very important to come back.”
Once the game was over, everyone was excited to take pictures with Wagner and thank him for the impact he has had on them.
“They keep thanking me for being a part of their lives, and I want them to know that they’ve made me a part of their lives,” Wagner said.
While this may be the last time Wagner coaches against the alumni team, Ager hopes that Wagner will be back to coach for them next year.
Wagner was in awe of how many people came out to celebrate his final season and to see everything come full circle. He had been able to see players that he coached come back and play on the same field that he coached them on years and sometimes decades ago.
“Memories flash back through my mind that go all the way back to the 70s. Players that I coached are now 50 and 60 years old, and they were able to come out and have fun playing a football game,” Wagner said. "They’ve been so loyal and generous to me, it makes me almost want to have tears. I’m so overwhelmed.”
Penn’s current team got started early with two rushing touchdowns from senior quarterback Eddie Jenkins on the team's first two possessions en route to a dominant shutout win. Jenkins completed 14 of his 18 pass attempts, accounting for 129 of Penn’s 398 total offensive yards. Sophomore running back Sam Mintz showed his versatility, rushing for 55 yards and going 6-for-6 on extra points.
With the 125-year celebration of Franklin Field and the celebration of Wagner’s final year, this season is bound to be a joyous one. The team will look to add another reason to celebrate with a Collegiate Sprint Football League Championship win at Franklin Field at the end of the season.
“We want to send [Wagner] out on top. Our goal is to win a championship,” Jenkins said. “It really hits home even more this year that it’s championship or bust.”
Penn will start their championship push on Friday at the Frank against a tough opponent in Army.
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