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Demoralized Chapman Gets Dumped

Football: Panthers have a dismal first half and get too little too late in second half of 42-29 loss to St. Mary's.


MORAGA — Frustrated by off-the-field tribulations the last three weeks, Chapman got dumped on the field Saturday.

St. Mary's, a Division I-AA team, inflicted the type of punishment Division III Chapman usually dishes out, building a 28-point first-half lead and hanging on for a 42-29 victory at St. Mary's Stadium.

This clearly wasn't the same Panther team that started the season with five consecutive victories, four of them routs. Eight opening-day starters were missing Saturday because they were either injured, suspended or ineligible.

The Panthers seem to have been demoralized by recent events, especially the forfeiture of those easy victories after the discovery that running back Darnell Morgan and defensive back Malcolm King were playing their fifth season.

St. Mary's was far from sympathetic, scoring on four of its first five possessions to take a 28-0 lead. The Gaels (6-3) eventually built a 35-7 halftime advantage.

But with the game threatening to become a rout--perhaps along the lines of the Panthers' 57-7 victory over Redlands in September--Chapman showed its toughness.

The Panthers (6-2, not including the five forfeits) outscored St. Mary's, 22-7, in the second half, and pulled as close as two touchdowns, 35-22, with 11 minutes 29 seconds left in the game. But the deficit was too big, and St. Mary's answered with a touchdown that made Chapman's final score moot.

Looking tight-lipped and grim afterward, Panther Coach Ken Visser was in no mood to talk about a moral victory. "I was pretty impressed with their courage in the second half," he said. "But that's not good enough. You've got to play 60 minutes."

Gael quarterback Sean Laird, who passed for 282 yards and a school-record tying five touchdowns, was more generous. "It takes a lot of heart, especially on the road against a Division I-AA team," Laird said. "It would have been really easy for them to put their heads down and quit. But they stuck it out and did a good job."

Good enough for a victory, perhaps, if the Panthers weren't so dreadful in the first half.

The usually stalwart Chapman defense was porous. On the opening drive, it took only four plays for St. Mary's to move from its 36 to the Chapman four. Three plays later Laird passed to tight end Mickey Clements for a three-yard touchdown.

Chapman's offense was also self-destructive. Fullback Aaron Meschuk fumbled on the Panthers' fourth play from scrimmage and the Gaels recovered at the Chapman 49. Later in the first quarter, Panther quarterback Greg Hyland fumbled on a blindside sack by Darren Brown and the Gaels took over at the Chapman 21.

Both turnovers led to St. Mary's touchdowns. The sack knocked Hyland out of the game with a shoulder injury, the second quarterback Chapman has lost in two games.

Greg Cancelleri, a redshirt freshman from Carlsbad who hadn't attempted a pass before Saturday, performed well in relief. In his second series, he helped the Panthers drive 68 yards for a touchdown. Mostly he handed the ball off to running backs Meschuk, Ralph Langston and Ramsey Byrd, but he finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Baltodano that made it 28-7.

Chapman used a pounding ground game to steadily gain momentum in the second half. Byrd (74 yards in 18 carries) and Langston (66 in 15) took advantage of sizable holes opened by the Chapman line.

Chapman's defense also stiffened and the Panthers scored 15 consecutive points--on a Matt George 49-yard field goal, a five-yard pass from Cancelleri to tight end David Vaccaro and a Cancelleri sneak from inches to make it 35-22.

But three plays later, Laird hit Shane Sullivan on a 52-yard touchdown, and Langston's five-yard touchdown run with 6:14 left was the last time Chapman had the ball.

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