Panther pride rings (quite) loudly on football’s Senior Night

Seniors on the Chapman football team gather at the center of Wilson Field on Nov. 9, the team’s final home game of the 2019 regular season and Senior Night. The Panthers defeated the Claremont Mudd-Scripps by a score of 41-17 to preserve an immaculate 8-0 record on the season. Photo courtesy of Larry Newman

A lone handheld bell, pointed to the heavens and shaken back and forth, does not cause much of a ruckus on its own. Yet, when joined by an army of others – synced in harmony with over a thousand enthralled family members and friends rooting for the Panthers toeing the field on Senior Night, backed by a band, cheerleaders and the rhythms of “Brown Eyed Girl” at halftime – these bells create a war cry of victory.

A 41-17 win over the Claremont Mudd-Scripps on Nov. 9, Chapman football’s final home game of the 2019 regular season, was one of the grandest displays of school spirit seen at a Panthers sports event in recent history.

There was even a man who, at halftime, danced in front of the crowd in a Finding Nemo hat, Superman cape and Mickey Mouse gloves. While perhaps not to that level of outspokenness, there’s a tangible buzz on campus surrounding this team – a larger awareness than in past seasons. In this Saturday night game, the home crowd at Wilson Field rang those bells for every Panther touchdown, every first down, every change of possession.

I talked to members in the audience – they’ve been a tradition throughout the season. Again, the score was 41 to 17. Needless to say, the bells rarely stopped. That energy served as a direct conduit for the Panthers on the field. Clad in black-on-black home uniforms – colors dark as the night sky above, secret agents of chaos – they never eased off the gas pedal. Five different Chapman players were responsible for touchdowns. Three for sacks. Three more for interceptions, including a one-handed pluck out of thin air like a magician conjuring a rabbit from a hat by senior defensive back Nathan Parkin.

“Our guys have never shied away from competition. They’ve never shied away from size, or the necessity to be aggressive,” head coach Bob Owens said. “Our guys have met the challenges that we’ve faced this year.”

They’ve maintained an undefeated record thus far and will look to complete that challenge on Nov. 16 at the University of La Verne, the Panthers’ final game of the regular season. If they end with a perfect nine wins and zero losses, there’s a chance they could be called upon to host a Division III playoff game, the first in Chapman history. I can only imagine the ruckus that would ensue.