Chapman’s football team (2-1) steamrolled over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (1-2) in its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) game of the year, beating the Stags on the road 33-23.
Following their commanding 49-34 victory over Whitworth the previous week, the Panthers were ready to start their SCIAC competition. Utilizing a balanced offense, Chapman repeatedly took advantage of Claremont’s mistakes and penalties.
The Panthers dominated the game with a bruising running attack, gaining 286 total rush yards. The key to their success was senior running back Jeremiah McKibbins, who exploded for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
“It’s almost like a finish line, and when you cross it and see the ref throw his hands up you feel a ton of excitement,” he said. “It’s a very unique feeling that you need to experience to understand.”
Coming out of halftime with a 17-9 lead, Chapman’s defense forced the Stags to turn the ball over on downs. On the next play, McKibbins burst through the line untouched, sprinting 60 yards to the end zone.
After forcing Claremont to punt on its next possession, Chapman took over on its own 33-yard line. Three plays later, junior wide receiver Sean Myers got an over-the shoulder-catch for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 30-9.
Despite the large deficit, Claremont never gave up and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the game competitive. While Chapman was able to hold on for the victory, McKibbins believes that the team needs to work on finishing games.
“Once we get teams on the ropes we can’t let them off the hook,” he said. “Claremont is a good team, but we gave them way too many chances and have to limit that.”
Although McKibbins was excited after his incredible game, he was quick to give credit to Chapman’s offensive line, something he said has been a long time coming.
“The linemen are hands down the hardest working group of guys on the field, and these boys are just working their butts off,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch your friends give their all and play the sport really well.”
The success of the offensive line has played a huge role in Chapman’s ability to run its offense this season, other positions have a more visible impact on the game.
“We just want to execute and make the skill guys feel protected and have the confidence to perform,” said senior offensive lineman Chris Collodel. “We have a really tight group on the line that works hard together and enjoys being together.”
Against Claremont, the line did an exceptional job protecting senior quarterback Michael Lahey and finished the game without giving up a sack.
“Any time we give up a sack we take it to heart because it’s our job to not let the quarterback get touched,” Collodel said. “Coach likes to say we don’t have any fat linemen because we’re always working hard and giving our best.”
For the Panthers, getting the first SCIAC win was a step in the right direction, but they said they aren’t satisfied.
“Winning always feels good, but we have to be hungry and have a lot to do and work on,” McKibbins said.
Chapman returns home to take on Pomona-Pitzer (0-1, 0-3) Saturday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. for its homecoming game.