Late rally in football makes SCIAC statement
An explosive fourth quarter offense brought the Chapman football team to its first-ever SCIAC victory with a 49-35 win over host Whittier College Saturday.
Leading the Division III No. 9 ranked offense is sophomore running back Jeremiah McKibbins, who cracked a 17-year school rushing touchdown record in the game by scoring five touchdowns. McKibbins gives credit to his fellow teammates.
“We all depend on one another and it was a total team effort – the quarterback handing me the ball, the receivers pushing their blocks and the linemen and fullbacks knocking heads at the scrimmage line,” McKibbins said. “That is how the game is supposed to be played and I can’t help but smile at that win.”
Chapman (2-1) started the SCIAC matchup with an ardent offensive showing. With the help of McKibbins and a 21-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Andrew Chavez to senior tight end Sean Denney, the Panthers built a 20-14 lead over Whittier (1-2) at halftime.
After a pair of third-quarter Poet touchdowns, Chapman looked to its experienced offensive line to pilot a comeback. Fighting a one-point fourth quarter deficit, McKibbins scored from one yard out at the 6:53 mark. Chavez completed a two-point conversion pass to junior wide receiver Robin Harris to increase the lead to 42-35.
The Poets struggled to rally back as their quarterback junior Chris Lopez was picked off by junior defensive back Josh Irvin on the next drive. A 46-yard drive topped off by a 4-yard McKibbins touchdown gave Chapman a 49-35 lead. With 2:20 left on the clock, McKibbins said the momentum could have easily shifted.
“We still had some time left in the game, so it was all about keeping the ball. Luckily, we put a lot of faith in our defense,” he said. “They are hard-nosed players and I compete with them every day and know what they are capable of.”
Sophomore linebacker Brett Hornstein made a team-high 11 tackles with two for a loss and one sack. Junior linebacker Wade Minshew and senior linebacker Michael Mehlhaff also had eight tackles apiece. The Panther defense presented a struggle for the Division III No. 2 ranked Whittier offense, giving up 529 yards (56 yards under their season average of 585.5).
“All week our coaches emphasized that we focus on the fundamentals,” Mehlhaff said. “Whittier is a heavily penalized team, so we knew that we would be able to play our game and that they would beat themselves in the process.”
Minshew said he felt the fourth-quarter heat from the defensive line.
“They have some phenomenal athletes and there was a lot resting on our shoulders to contain them during those last few plays,” Minshew said.
The Panthers also added a duo of field goals in the first half from senior kicker Mauricio Alfonso, who broke a 16-year school record and became Chapman’s career leader with 20, respectively.
Chapman plays visiting Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens Saturday at 7 p.m. for the Panthers’ Homecoming game.