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Waiting hardest part for Penn football

Penn opens football season this weekend.

Penn Quakers football Penn is expected to win its fourth outright Ivy title in the past five seasons.
Photo courtesy: Penn Athletics

The waiting is over for the Penn Quakers. At long last, they can play football.

"I guess it goes along with the Ivy League schedule,'' said senior defensive back Dan Wilk, as the Quakers open Saturday against Lafayette at Franklin Field. "But seeing all those teams playing kind of gets you itching to play."

Starting his 22nd season with the Red and Blue, Al Bagnoli has seen it all. He's also won an awful lot. Last year, Penn won its third outright Ivy title in the past four years. With 12 starters back, including fifth-year quarterback Billy Ragone, the so-called experts say they should become the first team in Ivy history to make it four of five.

No wonder Bagnoli has spent much of the preseason guarding against complacency, even bringing in motivational speakers to make his point.

"Everybody thinks we have the potential to be pretty good," said Bagnoli, who will be chasing his 10th Ivy crown. "But what is everyone willing to sacrifice to do that? Will we have a sense of entitlement or still be hungry?"

Many still remember 2011, when the two-time defending champs did succumb to the pressure. They finished at 5-5.

"It lit a fire under us," said fifth-year senior defensive end Sam Chwarzynski. "Seeing the seniors that season walk off the field without a championship was really hard on us juniors. We came together as a class and said we didn't want that to happen to us."

Defense of the Ivies begins with Dartmouth in two weeks, with most of their key games — including the Nov. 16 showdown at Harvard — coming late. But with most schools having already played two or three games, the Quakers are happy to finally get underway.

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