The Chapman football team traveled to the University of La Verne Saturday afternoon to keep Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship hopes alive. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they couldn’t hold onto a two touchdown first half lead as the Leopards scored 35 unanswered points to come back and defeat Chapman 49-42.
The loss secures Chapman (2-5, 2-3) its first losing season since 2011, and ends any hope the Panthers had to be repeat conference champions.
“I know that I can speak for the team on this one. None of us like losing, we hate it,” said junior defensive end Ben Wadors. “It has been a rough year. In league play, we haven’t been blown out once. All of our losses could have been wins if we just shortened the amount of mistakes we made.”
It was another monster day on the ground for Chapman senior running back Jeremiah McKibbins. Chapman’s all-time leading rusher ran for 232 yards on 27 carries while scoring four touchdowns, all in the first half. The last touchdown came on a 24-yard run with just under four minutes left in the first half, putting Chapman ahead 28-14.
“I felt like everything was working and we went in the locker room feeling really good. Our offense did a really good job executing and we got plenty of really good drives,” McKibbins said.
La Verne (6-1, 5-0) came storming back by pounding the Panthers defense on the ground. The Leopards’ senior running back Travis Sparks-Jackson scored his second of three touchdowns for the day with 36 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the deficit to 28-21. Sparks-Jackson rushed for 197 yards total.
The Leopards came out of the locker room for the second half roaring, led by senior quarterback William Livingston, who rushed for two touchdowns in the third quarter. Livingston threw for 111 yards on the day, as well as rushing for 102 yards.
The final nail in the coffin came on Sparks-Jackson’s third touchdown of the day, a 46-yard run early in the fourth quarter putting La Verne out ahead comfortably at 49-28.
Junior Andrew Chavez replaced sophomore Mac Vail as quarterback to finish out the game. He threw for 82 yards and a touchdown, a 23-yard pass that senior receiver Sean Myers hauled in late in the game to bring the Panthers within one score at 49-42.
The Panthers could not recover an onside kick though, and La Verne ran out the remaining time on the clock marking an end to the reigning conference champions’ title defense hopes.
“We’re not even thinking about that anymore,” said senior defensive back Drew Demarco who led the Panthers with 13 total tackles Saturday. “Obviously it was on our minds coming into this game but moving forward we are going to play hard these last two games and we still feel like we can leave our mark on this conference.”
La Verne junior running back Dallas Parent rushed for 126 yards, putting the Leopards at 421 rushing yards for the game, an average of 8.3 yards per rush.
“Got to give props to La Verne,” Wadors said. “They don’t have a complicated offense but what plays they do run, they run effectively. I just think that they were able to call some plays that they were able to expose our defensive play calls.”
Chapman will return home Saturday, Nov. 7 to host rival University of Redlands (3-4, 3-2) for a 7:05 p.m. game.