On Friday night, the frigid weather and swirling winds synonymous with November football descended upon Franklin Field. Those conditions were fitting, as Penn sprint football froze up in its final game of the season.
Penn (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) were routed by Navy (6-1) 33-7 in their final outing of the season at home on Friday night. Navy’s offense excelled throughout the matchup, while Penn was stagnant from the kickoff. The Midshipmen will advance onto the CSFL Championship Game following their victory in Philadelphia.
The Quakers' first drive was over before it started, with a first-play fumble giving Navy the ball on Penn's 45-yard line. But the Quaker defense did not break when it was suddenly put into action. Following an explosive thirty-yard run by Navy’s running back Tyler Massena, Penn stood strong on the goal line. After four unsuccessful goal line rushing attempts, Navy turned the ball over on downs.
However, after this stop, the Quakers could not move the chains, and ended up punting the ball from the back of their own end zone and once again gifting the Midshipmen with great field position. But Penn's defense would deliver once again, this time thanks to an interception and short return by freshman defensive back Josh Johnson.
“We were playing a cover-two, and I saw number two run an out route,” Johnson said of the interception. “So I jumped out and I was just like: It's coming my way, I gotta get this.”
Unfortunately, following another unproductive drive from the Quakers, the Midshipmen finally made them pay. After marching down the field thanks to the arm of quarterback Brandon Atwood, he finished the drive himself. Atwood powered his way past Penn’s defensive line on a quarterback sneak to score the game's first touchdown three minutes into the second quarter.
Following this, the Midshipmen were evidently unsatisfied with giving Penn's offense a chance to see the field, as they opted for an onside kick, catching the Quakers off guard and allowing Navy's Jonathan Swift to recover the ball. This seemed to further energize the Midshipmen, as they scored just two plays later on a touchdown pass from Atwood to Andrew Margiotta. Following a missed extra point, the game was now 13-0.
But the final eleven minutes of the first half resulted in zero points scored between the two teams. Both offenses were unable to progress the ball down the field, resulting in a series of quick drives and punts before each team went to the locker room for halftime.
This trend continued after the break, as the next score did not occur until there were just over five minutes left in the third quarter. This time, Navy's defense stepped up. Recovering a Penn fumble, Navy’s David Niski returned the ball 38 yards for a touchdown, putting the Quakers down 19-0 after an unsuccessful two point attempt by the Midshipmen.
Unfortunately for the Penn fans in the cold, metal stands of Franklin Field, Navy kept its foot on the gas. Following the fumble, the Midshipmen scored 14 more unanswered points, to the delight of their fans who had made the trip and were chanting throughout the game.
The Quakers recorded their first points of the game during garbage time. With a 1:24 left to play, junior quarterback Ty Scherer threw a bullet to junior wide receiver Kyle Zeitlian for an eight-yard touchdown, which prevented a shutout. But shortly after, Penn's onside kick attempt failed, and the Midshipmen kneeled out the game.
Although not the final outcome that the Quakers desired, the team appeared satisfied with their growth throughout the season. Players were seen hugging and exchanging laughs while walking off Franklin Field for the last time this season.
“I think that if you look at our team as a whole every week we got better,” coach Jerry McConnell said. “[These] kids just never quit — and they believed in themselves, and they worked hard. They just kept on working and working and working. And we didn't get to where we wanted to go, but you see that the foundation was laid for a great year next year.”
Despite ending a year with a losing record, McConnell does not want that to tell the story of the team. Many players are freshmen and sophomores who have not had time to develop their technical and physical skills fully.
“The kids will start lifting and we'll come back in January,” McConnell said. “And our focus is that we're going to compete next year for a championship.”