The Chapman football team kicks off the 2014 season 7 p.m. Saturday against visiting Linfield Wildcats, who have been one of the best Division III football programs of the last decade.
With a 94-16 record during that period, the Wildcats come to Chapman as the fourth ranked team in the nation according to D3football.com. Yet, while the Wildcats boast an impressive history, the Panthers are doing their best to stay focused.
“We’re taking every game at a time and just treating this like any other week,” said junior running back Hakeem McGrew . “We have the same winning mindset and aren’t putting them on a pedestal.”
However, the players understand that playing against Linfield is an important step for the entire Chapman football program.
“They get the most respect in the west and are the team to beat,” said senior wide receiver Spencer Jordan,. “Everyone is ready to go and you can see the energy level.”
A key for Chapman will be stopping an explosive Wildcat offense that averaged 48.5 points-per-game last year. With Chapman’s aggressive style of defense, the Panthers will try to create turnovers and prevent Linfield from getting into a rhythm offensively.
The Wildcat offense relies heavily on their running game as they accumulated 2,773 total rushing yards last season. Chapman’s defense has been working on stopping the run by simulating plays and working against the Panther offense.
“Anytime we line up against each other and go full out we’re getting better on both sides of the ball,” Jordan said. “The defense is probably going to see 100 run plays so this week has been good preparation for them.”
For the Panthers, they will look to their explosive backfield and veteran wide receivers to create opportunities and quickly move the ball. While unable to talk about specific plays, the players feel confident that the practices have prepared them for Saturday.
“We’ve been putting our skill guys in one-on-one situations and we believe our guys are better,” said senior tight end Anthony Ezeakunne. “It’s a big opportunity for us to bring our football program to a new level.