PHILADELPHIA – Friday night brings with it a new season of sprint football at the University of Pennsylvania as the Quakers head to West Point to take on Army (7 p.m.) as the Red and Blue will look to knock off the defending Collegiate Sprint Football League champions.
The Quakers return 14 players who earned All-CSFL honors last season, including first-team All-CSFL running back Mike Beamish. The leading rusher in the CSFL, Beamish carried the ball 169 times for 725 yards last season. Over his two seasons with the Red and Blue, Beamish is averaging 4.9 yards-per-carry and has scored five touchdowns. In the backfield, Joe Raso also returns after a solid freshman season. Last year as a rookie, he averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry for 175 yards and a touchdown.
The quarterback position features many options for the Quakers as the 2013 season commences. Keith Braccia started every game last season, throwing for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns while running for 161 yards and five scores. Freshman Mike McCurty was 8-for-18 for 103 yards and a touchdown in last weekend’s Alumni Game, showing he is capable of handling the offense if called upon.
Who is on the receiving end of the quarterback’s passes will be an interesting storyline to watch for Penn fans all season long. Graduated is the program’s all-time leading receiver, Whit Shaw, who finished his stellar career with 1,757 yards and 20 touchdowns in the air. He accounted for 46% of Penn’s reception yards last season and 10 of 12 receiving touchdowns. Seven different players return for head coach Bill Wagner who caught at least one pass last season, led by Nick Longtin. The junior caught 18 passes for 190 yards last season, and hauled in a touchdown last weekend in the Alumni Game. Tight end Michael Bass and Beamish are the only returning players who caught a touchdown pass last season. A wild card in the mix is senior Andrew Donald. A two-time honorable mention All-CSFL wide receiver, Donald had 43 career catches for 643 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. He was injured in the first game last season and missed the rest of the year. If he can return healthy, he could be a big factor in the aerial game.
Defensively, the Red and Blue return four of their five top tacklers from 2012, led by Jack Miller and Mack Pierson. The two combined for 94 total tackles last season, including 63 solo stops. In addition, they combined for 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Matt Pellegrino and Nick Rush combined for 50 tackles in the secondary, adding 17 passes broken up. Stu Helgeson is another factor in the secondary with 23 solo tackles and an interception last season.
On Friday, Penn will take on an Army team which went 7-0 last season, including a 6-0 mark in the CSFL. The Black Knights were led by CSFL Most Valuable Player Javier Sustaita who passed for 2,016 yards and 22 touchdowns. Sustaita has since graduated, as has the second-leading receiver in the CSFL in Cody Nyp. Army will bring back the top wide out in the League last year, though, in Tom Jeffers. The senior caught 52 passes for 632 yards and eight touchdowns last year.