In its first win of the season, the Chapman football team nearly cost itself against Trinity University at home Saturday, Sept. 24, as the Panthers missed two extra points and a field goal before securing a 19-17 victory over the Trinity Tigers (2-2).
The win wasn’t assured until the last second of the game, as Trinity missed a would-be game-winning field goal from 47 yards out to give Chapman (1-1) the win.
Head coach Bob Owens credited Trinity, saying it was a tough team to face, especially considering its size advantage.
“It was a huge win against an outstanding football team,” Owens said. “They were 8-2 last year, 2-1 (going into the game) this year. They’ve gotten off to a great start. They are, without question, the biggest football team we’ve played size-wise. Their offensive line is 300 pounds across the board, and it was a grinder.”
Though the Panthers only trailed once in the game — after a first-quarter Trinity field goal — they were unable to extend their lead to more than nine points in the game, keeping Trinity within reach.
After Trinity got on the board with the field goal, it marched back down the field and seemed poised to score again, before senior Trinity quarterback Austin Grauer was picked off in the end zone by junior Chapman defensive back Chris Williams, who returned the ball to the 10 yard line.
Williams said Chapman’s secondary was prepared for Trinity’s offensive schemes.
“We knew they liked hitting those seam routes,” Williams said. “We’ve been looking at film all week and we knew that the front seven was going to take care of everything and it would come down to our secondary. Getting that takeaway and (junior defensive back/wide receiver) Ronald Washington getting his pick, it was big for us.”
On the successive offensive drive after Williams’ interception, Chapman drove down the field in seven plays for its first touchdown of the game. Junior quarterback Mac Vail threw a screen pass to junior wide receiver Jacob Isabel who, with the help of some crucial Chapman blocking, ran the ball the rest of the way for a 35-yard touchdown.
Isabel, who racked up 106 yards in addition to the touchdown and has now won his first game in a Chapman uniform, gave much of the credit to his teammates for the play.
“On the one touchdown, a lot of guys made some nice blocks,” Isabel said. “I was untouched for 30 yards or however long it was. (Senior wide receiver Ethan) Weinstein made a great block for me, the offensive line held up and came out and they ended up meeting me in the end zone.”
Owens said that while Chapman has a way to go offensively, he has a lot of faith in the offense and especially in Isabel.
“I think we’re going to be an outstanding offensive football team at the end of the day and this guy (Isabel) is one of the reasons why,” Owens said. “We think he’s going to be a special player for us, but we’re still putting the pieces together. But what was important offensively is when we needed to show up, when we needed to score a touchdown, those guys pulled it together and got it done.”
After the touchdown, junior kicker Lucas Alfonso had his extra point blocked, marking the first of three times Chapman would fail to convert kicking chances. Late in the second quarter, Chapman blocked a punt, which it recovered for a touchdown but again missed the extra point, this time without the defense getting a hand on the ball.
In the third quarter, Trinity fooled Chapman with an end-around handoff to junior wide receiver Rhodes Legg, who found freshman wide receiver Tommy Lavine open downfield for a 40-yard touchdown, bringing Trinity within two points of the Panthers.
Later in the quarter, Chapman moved down the field, setting Alfonso up for a 41-yard field goal, which was deflected by a Trinity defender.
In the fourth quarter, junior quarterback Ricky Bautista ran in a 6-yard touchdown untouched on a bootleg play, followed by an extra point from Alfonso, putting Chapman up 19-10 with less than six minutes to play.
However, on the very next drive, Trinity scored a touchdown and an extra point with less than three minutes to go. Though they gave the ball back to Chapman, who forced the visitors to use all three of their timeouts, Chapman was forced to punt the ball back to Trinity with less than a minute to go, starting at the Trinity 42-yard line.
In just three plays and 19 seconds, Trinity was able to move 28 yards down the field, setting up a potential game-winning field goal from 47 yards out. As soon as the kick took flight, however, Chapman rejoiced, as the kick came nowhere near the uprights, falling short and securing the win for Chapman.
Owens said that the team’s defensive line and linebacking core did an incredible job against a huge group of Trinity offensive linemen, helping Chapman win.
“I’ve yelled enough where I’ve lost most of my voice,” Owens said. “We think, probably one of the real strong parts of our defense is the people up front.”
Senior linebacker Devin Ray said that the win is huge for Chapman, and that he was excited for Chapman’s homecoming game, which will be played next Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. against Pomona-Pitzer (1-1).
“It feels great, definitely,” Ray said. “It’s always important to win the first home game and we did what we set out to do and we’re excited for next week.”