Looking to bounce back after a tough week-one loss to Linfield, the Chapman football team (1-1) returned to the field Saturday afternoon and dominated Whitworth (3-1) 49-34 in Spokane, Washington.
Hoping to avoid falling to 0-2, the Panthers offense played well, gaining 589 total yards and scoring seven touchdowns. Using a balanced attack, the Panthers increased their offensive tempo, eventually breaking down the Pirates defense.
“We moved the ball great, had a great combination of run and pass, and Michael Lahey was making the right reads,” said senior wide receiver Spencer Jordan. “We did what we had prepared to do and executed it perfectly.”
Despite the lopsided final score, the first half was extremely tight. Each team scored on their first three possessions, but a missed extra point left Chapman with a 21-20 lead with 8:44 to go in the second quarter.
Following a Whitworth missed field goal, Chapman drove the ball 80 yards on 12 plays and found the end zone on a one-yard run by Lahey, putting Chapman ahead 28-20 heading into halftime.
Whitworth received the kickoff to start the second-half, but the Panthers quickly reminded Whitworth why they went 8-1 the year before. The Panthers forced four turnovers on each of Whitworth’s first four possessions of the second-half, the first of which was an interception by junior cornerback Drew DeMarco.
The offense quickly capitalized on DeMarco’s interception with a four-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jeremiah McKibbins to extend their lead to 35-20.
On the next Whitworth possession, the Panthers once again forced the Pirates offense to turn the ball over, coming up with an interception by sophomore safety Conner Larkin. iiiPicking up where they left off, the Panthers offense marched 96 yards, punctuated by a 48-yard touchdown catch by junior wide receiver Austin Schaefer.
The onslaught continued as the Panthers defense immediately forced a fumble on the Pirates next possession. Once again taking over in Whitworth territory, Chapman wasted no time and finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run by McKibbins.
For senior linebacker Greg Johnson, halftime gave the defense an opportunity to make crucial adjustments that paid off in the second half.
“The tempo was so fast that we needed to change our alignments and switch responsibilities so we could get to the ball quicker,” he said. “They spread the field really well and had multiple weapons to target.”
Facing an offense that relies heavily on passing, the Panthers defense focused on closing to the ball and locking down assignments, forcing four turnovers in the second half.
However, it was the Panther’s offensive consistency that allowed them to control the game for four quarters. Lahey had an exceptional game, throwing for 302 yards and three touchdowns on 25-32 attempts.
“We came in with a solid game plan, had two weeks to prepare and were extremely efficient,” Lahey said. “Our offensive line had a great day, gave up no sacks and our running lanes were huge.”
The Panthers repeatedly ran play action passes, getting Lahey out of the pocket and allowing him to make decisions on the run. Yet, it was Chapman’s running game that dictated the tempo and allowed the Panthers to control the clock.
Utilizing multiple running backs, the Panthers ran for 243 yards, and at times, appeared unstoppable. McKibbins, who is still recovering from a knee injury, ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Alongside McKibbins, Lahey carried the ball 15 times, rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown.
Coming off of their week off, the Panthers were committed to starting the game strong and not allowing the extra rest to affect their play.
“After a bye week it’s easy to come out lackadaisical and get a loss because the tempo is so hard to replicate in practice,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve seen both our offense and defense (play) close to our best and now we have to put it together.”
The Panthers will now shift into Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) play for the rest of the season.
“I think this team could be the best team Chapman has ever seen and it’s a complete reflection on the coaches and captains,” Jordan said. “The leadership that we have on this team makes our expectations higher every week.”
Chapman will travel to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Saturday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. for its next game.