Defying gravity: Vill makes touchdown grab in victory

Panthers receiver Trevor Vill (left) caught 11 touchdowns last season. The first of his senior season came in the first quarter of the Panthers’ game Sept. 6. Photo courtesy of Larry Newman

There are 18 wide receivers listed on the roster for Chapman’s football team. Of those 18, none weigh more than senior Trevor Vill. But on Sept. 6 in the Panthers’ first fall game against Pacific University of Oregon, Vill used every inch of his 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound frame to momentarily defy gravity and make an incredible play that kicked off the football season with a bang.

There is a term in football for a route that wide receivers or tight ends sometimes run, known as a “fade.” Yet calling it a route and defining it as a play under-exaggerates its simplicity; it generally involves a physically talented receiver running to the corner of the end zone and hoping the quarterback can throw it in a decent enough spot – whereupon he might be able to leap or dive to snatch the ball out of the air for a touchdown.

It was just minutes into the first quarter, the score still tied at zero, when the Panthers assembled at the line of scrimmage for a crucial third down. They needed seven yards for a first down – but more enticing was the end zone, 13 yards away. Under center, quarterback Jonston MacIntyre readied for the snap. In his stance, the furthest receiver on the right of the formation, waited Vill.

As the ball was snapped into MacIntyre’s hands, Vill burst off the line, running directly into the end zone – a fade. MacIntyre scanned the right side of the field and saw Vill was covered by only a single defender. In one swift motion, he released the ball toward the senior receiver.

Vill had caught 11 touchdowns last season in only nine games, all of them coming from the arm of now-graduated senior Ian Fieber. This would be Vill’s first opportunity to establish a connection with new starter MacIntyre. As the ball hurtled through the air, his feet carried him toward the side of the end zone and Vill perceived the throw to be positioned high so his defender wouldn’t be able to reach. So in one fluid motion, he crouched and leapt.

But his defender covered him tightly. Once Vill was fully extended in the air, the ball appeared in a lower position than he expected. In midair, he reached his hands over the defender’s shoulder and as if they were magnets, the ball snapped into his hands. Then, he tapped both feet inbounds in the end zone before tumbling out of bounds. The referee raised his hands. Touchdown.

That night, Vill had plenty to celebrate. Chapman emerged victorious in a 45-14 thrashing of Pacific University, a convincing opening win that saw great performances from both the offense and defense. If their first touchdown of the season was any indication, the Panthers have plenty to look forward to.