The Chapman University football team continued to make history earlier this morning with 16 All-SCIAC selections, the most in program history. The Panthers took home four of the five major awards, including Defensive Athlete of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, the John Zinda Award and SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year.
Junior Dillon Keefe earned the second major award of his career as the SCIAC Defensive Athlete of the Year. The outside linebacker was a nuisance in the backfield, leading the conference with 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 more TFLs than any other SCIAC opponent. The Orange, Calif. native dropped opponents for a loss of 63 total yards as part of the most dominant defense in the conference. Keefe led the SCIAC with a career-high six sacks in conference games and tallied his first career interception in a dominant 36-6 win over Whittier. This is the captain’s second First Team selection in his three seasons.
Freshman Marcos Reyes burst onto the scene for the Panthers in his debut season, earning SCIAC Newcomer of the Year and First Team honors. Despite missing his final regular season game, the running back rushed for 458 yards, the fourth-most in the SCIAC. He ranked second in the conference with 76.3 yards per game and third with seven touchdowns against conference foes. The Santa Cruz, Calif. native did not surrender a single fumble against SCIAC teams and added two TD receptions to his impressive freshman resume.
The John Zinda Award, given to the senior who best exemplifies the high ideals and characteristics demonstrated by John Zinda during his tenure as head football coach and Athletic Director of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, went to senior offensive lineman Hunter Spriggs. Spriggs, a two-time cancer survivor and a Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year nominee, returned to the field for his senior season and is the true vision of the high ideals the Chapman football team sets for itself.
Head Coach Bob Owens and the rest of the coaching staff earned SCIAC Coaching Staff of the Year after leading the Panthers to history with their first-ever undefeated season. At the helm of Chapman for his 14th year, Owens led the squad to a perfect 7-0 conference record and the Panthers’ third SCIAC Championship. This is the coaching staff’s third major award since joining the SCIAC in 2012.
Chapman’s defense dominated the First Team selections, with seniors Noah Kjos, Ricky Medeiros, Nathan Parkin and sophomore Duncan Heger joining Keefe with the prestigious honor. Offensively, senior linemen Ryan Moles and Jacob Wilbanks joined Reyes on the First Team.
Kjos and Medeiros led Chapman’s defensive line as one of the best in the conference and the nation, earning their first career All-SCIAC selections. The Panthers ranked second in the conference, allowing just 72.9 rushing yards in SCIAC games. Chapman’s 25 sacks against conference opponents led the SCIAC. Kjos and Medeiros each tallied three sacks to continue the Panthers’ dominance in the backfield all season long. The pair combined for 9.5 tackles for a loss of 43 total yards.
Parkin’s presence in the secondary was felt by every SCIAC opponent he faced. The San Jose, Calif. native earned his first career All-SCIAC selection after tallying 23 tackles against conference opponents. All five of his interceptions came in SCIAC games, including three crucial INTs in a tight 26-21 victory over Pomona-Pitzer. He broke up five passes and forced a fumble against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps that he also recovered.
In his second season in the Chapman helmet, Heger proved as one of the top linebackers in the conference. His first career All-SCIAC selection comes after tallying 31 total tackles in conference games. The Redmond, Wash. native joined the party in the backfield with 5.5 sacks against SCIAC opponents. His seven tackles for a loss of 40 total yards helped the Panthers end the season with the seventh-ranked rushing defense.
This is Moles’ third consecutive First Team selection after leading the offensive line all four years. Fellow classmate and left tackle Wilbanks joins Moles for his first career SCIAC honor. The pair held off SCIAC opponents, allowing the Panthers to have one of their most explosive seasons on the ground. Chapman’s run game racked up a conference-high 1,704 total yards and 243.4 yards per game.
Eight more Panthers earned Second Team Honors. Senior Sal Ochoa III, juniors Nico Ragas, David Aarhus and James Kistner, sophomores Tanner Mendoza, Spencer Corona and Alex Waddell and freshman Owen Tapia each earned All-SCIAC honors after helping the Panthers to a perfect regular season.
This is Ochoa’s first career All-SCIAC selection after tallying a career-high four interceptions, all against conference opponents. The safety tackled SCIAC teams 21 times and tallied 1.5 tackles for loss. Aarhus also earned his first career All-SCIAC honor to round out the bevy of awards for the Chapman defense. The linebacker ranked second in the conference with two fumble recoveries in SCIAC games. The Camas, Wash. native also tallied 17 tackles and one sack against SCIAC opponents.
Ragas is no stranger to All-SCIAC selections. This is the kick returner’s second consecutive award on special teams. Ragas repeated history, taking two more kickoffs to the house this season for his third and fourth career kickoff returns for TDs, adding to his own career record. Newcomer Tapia joined Ragas as the special teams honorees on the Second Team. Tapia averaged 37.3 yards per punt. The Eastvale, Calif. native pinned conference opponents inside their own 20-yard line nine times and punted for a touchback just twice this season.
Kistner and Waddell each earned their first career All-SCIAC selections after helping the explosive Chapman offense this season. With the Panthers primarily utilizing the running game, Kistner, a tight end, helped Waddell and the offensive line create holes for the powerful running backs. Chapman rushed for 18 TDs against conference opponents as opposed to its 15 pass TDs. Kistner also added a couple of receptions against SCIAC opponents to his resume.
Mendoza led the SCIAC with 527 rushing yards against SCIAC opponents, earning his first career All-SCIAC award. The Ukiah, Calif. native posted his first-career 100-yard game with 133 yards on the ground in the Panthers’ 28-17 win over La Verne. Mendoza scored seven touchdowns against SCIAC opponents, three of those coming in his monster game against the Leopards.
Corona’s first-career All-SCIAC honor comes after stepping into a starting role due to numerous injuries at the position. The receiver scored three touchdowns against SCIAC opponents, including two in a big win over Occidental. Corona put up career numbers in the regular season finale against La Verne, receiving for 135 yards on eight catches.
The Panthers’ historic season continues as they host Linfield College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 12 p.m.