Sprint Football outlasts Penn in thriller, 24-21

By JJ Klein Army Athletic Communications

September 19th, 2019 | Army and Community Sports, Sports
The Army West Point Sprint Football team opened its 2019 season with a nail-biting 24-21 victory over Penn Friday evening at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The Black Knights (1-0) have won eight consecutive season-openers. Senior wide receiver Tom Williamson (above) made five catches for 81 yards, including a 40-yard diving catch that led to the winning field late in the fourth quarter.  Photo by Army Athletic Communications  

The Army West Point Sprint Football team opened its 2019 season with a nail-biting 24-21 victory over Penn Friday evening at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. The Black Knights (1-0) have won eight consecutive season-openers.
Trailing by just a field goal, Penn (0-1) was threatening in the closing minute of the game. The Quakers brought the ball to the Army 20-yard line, but time expired before they had a chance to tie or win the game.
In addition to managing three turnovers, Army’s defense held the Quakers offense to 3-of-5 on its red zone attempts.
Junior defensive back Ryan Leach was responsible for two of the Black Knights’ takeaways with a career-high two interceptions.

Army highlights and game notes
• The Black Knights have now won 15 of their last 16 games.
• Head Coach Mark West earned his 60th career victory. The 11th-year coach needs just four more victories to tie Bob Thompson (1986-97) for the second most in program history.
• Army now leads the all-time series with Penn, 58-7.
• Leach now has four career interceptions. He matched his career total entering the night with two.
• Senior running back Jake Gigliotti’s 62-yard touchdown catch is the longest reception of his career. It also marks his second career receiving touchdown.
• Junior linebacker Tate Blessinger led the Army defense with seven tackles, including two for a loss.
• Junior wide receiver Justin Charette’s six receptions tied a career high.
• Sophomore kicker Seppi Ortman was a perfect 3-for-3 on PAT attempts and 1-for-2 on field goal attempts.

How it happened
First Quarter
• After both offenses were held to three-and-outs on their opening drives, Penn running back LaQuan McKever broke free on the first play of the Quakers’ second drive. Senior defensive back Desmond Young had a touchdown-saving tackle on the play, tripping McKever up from behind. Later in the drive, senior linebacker Onorino Tamburri came up with an interception in the red zone.
• The Black Knights got the board thanks to a 62-yard catch-and-run from Gigliotti. The play capped off seven-play 97-yard drive to put Army up 7-0 with 2:53 left in the opening quarter.
Second Quarter
• On Army’s first drive of the second quarter, the Cadets took advantage of great field position with a 51-yard touchdown drive that spanned seven plays. The drive was capped off by a 6-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to senior wide receiver John Descisciolo from  sophomore quarterback JC Watson with 11:20 remaining.
• Penn responded with a lengthy, clock-eating drive. Over the course of 19 plays, the Quakers marched the ball down to Army’s 5-yardline. The Black Knights’ defense came up with a huge stop on 4th-and-inches with Blessinger prying the ball out of the would-be receiver’s hands with 11 seconds remaining in the half.
Third Quarter
• Penn capitalized on an Army fumble on a punt return early in the third quarter. Quakers quarterback Eddie Jenkins took off for a 14-yard touchdown run to get Penn on the board.
• The Quakers evened the score with another quarterback keeper from Jenkins on a 4th and 1 play.
Fourth Quarter
• Army answered back with a touchdown on the ensuing drive, capped off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Charette from junior quarterback Ryan Sullivan over the middle of the field with 12:33 remaining in the contest. The score put Army back in command 21-14.
• Penn came back on the following drive with Jenkins’ third rushing touchdown of the evening to once again even the score.
• Army’s Ortman knocked through the go-ahead 21-yard field goal with just under five minutes remaining. The field goal was set up by a 40-yard connection between Sullivan and senior wide receiver Tom Williamson.
Williamson sprawled out making a highlight-reel catch to advance the Black Knights into the red zone.