Penn Kingsmen reflect on experience of playing powerhouse teams

Penn faces Elkhart in conference opener Friday
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 1:53 PM EDT
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - Our Spotlight Game of the Week lands in Elkhart on Friday as the undefeated Lions host the Penn Kingsmen.

Penn got off to a 2-0 start before taking on a pair of powerhouse programs in the last couple weeks. Two weeks ago, the Kingsmen hosted defending Class 5A state champion Indianapolis Cathedral, and last week they traveled all the way to Cincinnati for a matchup with St. Xavier.

While Penn didn’t win either of those games, the players say they learned a lot that should help them as they start up their conference schedule.

“We learned what we can do on the field, and we can hang with big teams like that and powerhouses in Indiana and Ohio as well,” says senior offensive lineman Aidan Smies-Mendez. “We also learned a lot about ourselves. We’re a hard-fighting team, we’re going to go until the fourth quarter, no matter the outcome of the game. It didn’t end how we wanted it to, but we kept going and kept fighting until the last whistle.”

“It was an eye-opening experience, just playing teams that are that big and that fast and that strong,” says senior defensive tackle RC Glover. “It just lets you know; you may think you’re big and bad, but there’s some guys bigger and badder out there. It just makes us better.”

As for this Friday’s matchup, both Penn and Elkhart are expected to be strong contenders for the NIC East-West Division crown this season, and the Kingsmen say a win in their first conference game of the year would go a long way towards making that happen.

“This is championship football now,” Glover says. “Every week (Coach) says it because we’re playing for an NIC championship now. It’s now just out of conference games, these are the games that 100 percent matter. All the games matter, but these games especially—we’re trying to win it.”

However, Penn is not neglecting the level of talent on the other sideline.

“They’re undefeated, no one’s been able to score any points on them, and their offense is very explosive,” says Head Coach Cory Yeoman. “They can run the ball and they can throw the ball, and they’ve got big playmakers in the backfield and at receiver.”

“They’re a good team,” says Smies-Mendez. “They’re 4-0, so this week we have to prepare hard. We’ve got to be mentally focused to make sure all our assignments are down, and then when we get to the game we’ve got to fly around. Play hard, play fast, play physical, and just fly around the field. We’ve got to be a physical team on Friday night.”

Kickoff at Rice Field is set for 7 p.m.

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