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Chapman Football to Travel

Chapman announced its 1997 football schedule this week and, as expected, the powerful Panthers will have to travel farther to find a game.

Chapman will leave the state three times, taking two trips to Texas and one to Washington. The Panthers, an NCAA Division II independent, are traveling because they must.

Two of their 1996 opponents--Sonoma State and Chico State--have announced they are eliminating their football programs. Two more opponents--nearby Redlands and Occidental--have elected not to play Chapman, joining two other Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference teams on the doesn’t-play-Chapman list.

The reluctance to play the Panthers is in part because the program has been so good in its first three seasons. Chapman is 22-5-1, discounting the five games it forfeited last season because of the use of two ineligible players.

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So Chapman Athletic Director Dave Currey had to search for opponents elsewhere. The nine-game schedule he came up with is significantly tougher.

* Chapman will open the season in Bellingham, Wash., against Western Washington, which was 11-2 last season, losing in the NAIA Division II championship game.

* A home game against Willamette (Ore.) is next. Willamette, an NAIA team that is in the process of switching to NCAA Division III, was 9-2.

* Then the Panthers play consecutive games in Texas--at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene and Howard Payne in Brownwood. Hardin-Simmons was 8-3 and Howard Payne 8-2.

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The rest of the schedule is more familiar for the Panthers, although it’s short on breathers. Chapman will host Menlo, Division I-AA St. Mary’s, visit La Verne and finish its regular season with home games against Cal Lutheran and Azusa Pacific.

Only one of the teams--Cal Lutheran at 3-6--had a losing record in 1996. “It’s definitely a step up, as we say, but I think that’s all good,” Currey said. “We’re trying to be competitive. A humbling schedule? We really don’t know, but we certainly will have our work cut out for us.”

*

Chapman Coach Ken Visser, in the midst of the final recruiting push, said he doesn’t know much about the new opponents. He has seen Western Washington play on videotape and heard Willamette Coach Dan Hawkins speak about his offense at a coaching clinic.

“He didn’t get into much detail,” Visser said.

Visser and his staff are concentrating on recruiting. About 120 players visited campus in January and more visitors continue to trickle in. Friday is the university’s application deadline.

Visser said those who decide to join the Panthers will have an opportunity to contribute immediately. The entire starting defensive line completed its eligibility, for instance.

“I’m optimistic,” Visser said. “I think we’re going to have a good, solid football team, but I’m not going to make any predictions as far as our record goes because the schedule is so hard.”

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