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Chapman Ready to Cap Eventful First Season

November 12, 1994|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About a year ago, Chapman hired Ken Visser to coach the Panthers' first football team since 1932. Today, Visser will lead the team into its final game of 1994, at 1 p.m. at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks.

The Panthers, led by transfers, have appeared unbeatable at times, averaging 39.1 points per game. And despite losses to La Verne and Occidental and a tie with Redlands, Visser has plenty of reasons to be proud.

"Like any football coach you look back at the losses and the tie and wonder, 'What if?' " Visser said. "But overall, I think for the very first year, there is a very solid team and a very solid staff here.

"I think we took a very good first step."

Visser had to start from scratch when he was hired last December. The school had no football equipment and only a handful of students who expressed interest in playing football.

But apparently, Chapman tapped a pent-up demand for NCAA football in Orange County. Cal State Fullerton disbanded the county's last NCAA program in 1992. Visser and his staff, most of whom followed him from Whittier College, recruited hard and were surprised at the response.

In August, 112 players showed up for the first day of practice. Three weeks later, the Panthers were beating Whittier, 30-13.

Chapman (5-2-1) has only faltered in its games against the top three teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Chapman had to rally to tie Redlands, 14-14, lost to Occidental, 30-20, and lost to La Verne, 36-33.

A few breaks here and there and Chapman could be undefeated and playing today for an NCAA Division III playoff spot.

"It is something that you look back on and say, 'Doggone it, I know it wasn't because the kids didn't play hard and the coaches didn't coach hard,' " Visser said. "You look back and you would like to have some of those games back, of course you would."

Cal Lutheran (4-4) is led by quarterback Ryan Huisenga and running back Terrance Thomas. Huisenga has passed for 1,594 yards (199.3 per game) and Thomas has rushed for a Cal Lutheran single-season record of 1,134 (141.8 per game).

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