Karekin Brooks carried the load once again.
In the Quakers’ 38-24 victory over Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field, the senior running back rushed for 178 yards on 28 attempts, accounting for a total of four touchdowns on the day — three rushing and one receiving — to match his season total entering the game.
Despite Penn (2-2) pulling away with an early 17-0 lead in the first half, the game was a back-and-forth battle by the time the game clock hit zero as the Pioneers (3-3) were able to pick it up on both sides of the ball in the second half.
Offensively, it was all the Red and Blue in the first half. On the first drive of the game, senior quarterback Nick Robinson found sophomore wide receiver Rory Starkey on a 42-yard completion. A few plays later, Robinson connected with sophomore wide receiver Ryan Cragun for a 37-yard completion. Brooks would score his first touchdown two plays later on a one-yard run, capping off an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
After a defensive stop, the Quakers’ next drive began with 42-yard run by junior quarterback Ryan Glover on a trick play. However, the drive stalled at the Sacred Heart 35-yard line, and the Quakers elected to punt, pinning the Pioneers at their own 11-yard line.
The Red and Blue forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, and after a shanked 15-yard punt by the Pioneers, the Quakers were in scoring position again at the Sacred Heart 35-yard line. Eight plays later, Brooks found the end zone for his second touchdown of the day.
Two plays into the next Sacred Heart drive, senior quarterback Logan Marchi was intercepted by sophomore Adam Conyer, who returned the pick all the way to the Pioneers’ two-yard line. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the Quakers brought them back to the 17-yard line. The Red and Blue would be able to regain those yards, but the drive would ultimately stall as Penn was unable to convert a fourth and goal from the one.
After another Sacred Heart punt, the Quakers marched the ball 60 yards down the field to set up a field goal by junior kicker David Perkins. The Pioneers responded with a field goal of their own, but on the ensuing drive, Robinson found Brooks on a 17-yard touchdown pass. It was Brooks’ first career reception touchdown.
“I definitely didn't think about it until after the play,” Brooks said. "I knew they would try to tackle me low and I wouldn’t be able to run him over so I went over."
Once again, Sacred Heart was able to respond. With 39 seconds left in the half, Marchi connected with sophomore wide receiver Naseim Brantley on a 29-yard completion, making the score 24-10 at halftime.
The second half began with three straight punts before a fumbled snap in the end zone recovered by the Pioneers resulted in a Sacred Heart touchdown. All of a sudden, the Quakers were only up by one score.
“Sacred Heart is a good team, and all it took was that mis-snap to change the momentum of the game," coach Ray Priore said. “They rumbled back, but we settled ourselves and finished the way we wanted."
Heading into the fourth quarter the score remained the same until Robinson found Starkey on a 36-yard completion to set up a Starkey touchdown catch a few plays later. Immediately, the Pioneers were able to respond. Marchi found freshman Tyrese Chambers on a slant route who then took it 74 yards to the house, but the Quakers marched down the field again on a 13-play, 75-yard drive to set up Brooks' fourth touchdown.
Before Sacred Heart could have a chance at a comeback, Marchi was intercepted by senior defensive back Sam Philippi in the end zone, sealing the victory for the Red and Blue.
“When you come from an inside lineman on a post route running away from you to make the interception, that was an effort-and-a-half,” Priore said.
For Penn, Robinson finished the game 21-for-43 for 267 yards and two touchdowns while Starkey had a breakout game, catching eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.
The Quakers will return to League play next week when they take on Columbia in New York.