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Senior running back Laquan McKever attempts to run the ball down to the other endzone at Franklin Field during a game against Caldwell on Oct. 22.

Credit: Julia Van Lare

With the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) South Division title on the line, Penn was unable to sink Navy. 

Senior night for Penn sprint football at Franklin Field culminated in a devastating 52-14 loss. The Red and Blue (5-2) were unable to keep up with Navy’s (7-0) offense and watch its five-game winning streak and season both come to an end.

With Saturday night’s loss, the Quakers tied their 2019 season record. Both of the team’s losses this season came against the service academies.

Historically, the Quakers have not shaped up well against the Midshipmen. Saturday was no different. The Midshipmen scored the first points of the game and never looked back. It was Penn's third straight loss against Navy.

“We got out of the box slow,” coach Jerry McConnell said. “[Navy is] a good football team and you know our kids never quit, they just play hard all the time. It just turned out to be a rough night for us.”

Navy indeed came out hot and blew right past Penn. Both of its first two drives resulted in a touchdown and the score was quickly 14-0 by the end of the first quarter. By the half, Navy racked up two more touchdowns and kept Penn to none. 

The South Division title continued to slip further out of reach for the Red and Blue after halftime. 

Despite leaping efforts by freshman defensive back Jordan Ortiz to break up a 15-yard pass in the end zone, Penn’s defense couldn’t silence Navy. The Midshipmen’s first drive of the third quarter resulted in the team’s fifth unanswered touchdown, extending Navy’s lead to 35-0.

The third quarter also included two interceptions on junior quarterback Andrew Paolini. The first led to an eventual 43-yard field goal by the Midshipmen. Immediately after, Paolini’s pass was intercepted by Navy yet again and on the team’s third drive, a nine-yard touchdown boosted the Midshipmen to a dominating 45-0 lead.

The Midshipmen forced the Quakers to five turnovers in total by the end of the game.

Late in the third quarter came the Quakers’ best scoring chance of the game. Paolini threw a critical 39-yard pass to senior tight end and linebacker Ben Klaus. Then, the two almost connected for a touchdown later in the drive. The crowd erupted into cheers before the pass was signaled as incomplete. Cheers turned to silence and there was no score to show for Penn’s best drive of the game yet.

The Quakers would not go down without a fight though. In Penn’s first drive of the final quarter, Paolini’s stunning 13-yard pass was successfully caught by senior running back Laquan McKever. By reaching his arm out to catch in the corner of the end zone, McKever scored Penn’s first touchdown of the game. A kick from sophomore defensive back Bryce Stansfield secured the extra point and made it 45-7.

However, Navy promptly answered the Red and Blue’s touchdown with one of their own, capitalizing on a fumble by Paolini at Penn’s five-yard line. Paolini made up for his mistake by rushing 17 yards and scoring a touchdown with less than three minutes of play left.

Paolini ended the game with 129 passing yards and caps his season off with 19 total touchdown passes. He finishes just 67 yards shy of breaking into the top-five most passing yards in a single season record for Quaker program history. 

McKever ends his career for the Red and Blue strong, with more than 1,500 yards on the ground and 21 touchdowns. Freshman linebacker Cam Janock and junior linebacker Lewis Evans both had season-high defensive tackles in a single game, with 14 and 15 respectively.

In his first season as head coach, McConnell led the Red and Blue to the doorstep of a CSFL South Division title. The team last won it in 2017.  

“We got better each week,” McConnell said. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal but I am proud of the kids and what they accomplished.”

Despite a heartbreaking conclusion to the Quakers’ 2021 season, the trials, tribulations, and triumphs faced will make for a strong comeback next year.