After finishing second in the conference last year, the Chapman football team enters the 2014 season with a handful of talented running backs, and is looking to take the conference crown.
Chapman went 8-1 last season, losing only to SCIAC (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) champion Redlands.
“We believe that we are capable of winning it, and we believe it’s our time to win it,” said Chapman coach Bob Owens.
The Panthers have four running backs who will demand touches next season. Sophomore Cody Chapple led the team with 10 rushing touchdowns and 781 yards on the ground in 2013, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Junior Kean Stancil averaged 8.8 yards, running for 486 in total, and junior Terrell Dolberry ran 250 yards at 6.6 yards per carry. Stancil and Dolberry had six rushing touchdowns apiece.
Chapman will also see the return of their 2012 premier back, junior Jeremiah McKibbins. McKibbins missed all of last season due to injury, but ran for 1,190 yards and 10 touchdowns at six yards per carry in 2012.
The surplus of running backs is a good thing, according to Coach Owenes.
“Complicated. But very positive…(Any) one of those four guys, if they were carrying the load by themselves, they could be a thousand-yard guy.”
Coach Owens is now blessed with the headache of dividing playing time between these talented players.
“(We will) share the time with how the situation and the game will determine it,” Owens said. “It’s a game-by-game situation.”
Junior quarterback Michael Lahey is excited about the team’s prospects for next season.
“We have a really strong offensive line coming back,” Lahey said. “We have great running backs and receivers coming back. So basically my job just as quarterback is to get the ball to the athletes around me.”
The Panthers are already working hard toward next season.
“Basically, since Feb. 1, we’ve been running three days a week, lifting four days a week, and then there was also a five week period there too where we had practice three days a week,” Lahey said. “We’ve had a lot of stuff going on this spring. That’s definitely going to help us out for next year.”
However, there will be no practice over summer.
“Our players just do individual work (over summer),” Owens said. “There’s nothing mandatory that we can say ‘You’ve got to do this or this’ (due to NCAA restrictions). They just know they have to come back in great shape and ready to go.”
Practice will resume Aug. 20.
In the time that they do have to practice in the offseason, the Panthers are trying to hone their skills to compete for a title next season.
“In general, you are always trying to improve in every area,” Owens said.
Specifically, Owens said they are working to maintain offensive consistency, after scoring 45 points per game last year, develop a stronger defensive line, and get better at special teams.
Lahey and Owens agree that Redlands, California Lutheran and Occidental would be their main competition for the SCIAC title, though they believe they have what it takes to beat them.
“I know we’ve got the talent, and we’ve definitely got the players,” Lahey said. “As long as everyone’s just fully committed into the program, I don’t see any problem of hopefully winning the SCIAC championship next year.”
Chapman will open the season at home on Sept. 13 in a non-conference game against Linfield, who has advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament each year since 2009.