OC Register, photo by Larry Newman.

It is looking like a football leap year for the Chapman University football team. The team will not be returning to the field in 2020 and will have to wait, at least, until the fall of 2021 to defend their 2019 undefeated season.

But that hasn’t stopped the team from working.

Duncan Heger, Junior, outside linebacker. Courtesy of Chapman Football

The team has been practicing tirelessly during the pandemic in a safe way, to keep their momentum going into the next season. Unfortunately, their hopes have been officially squashed as the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) officially canceled 2020 fall and winter sports and the return has not yet been determined for 2021.  

Duncan Heger, outside linebacker for Chapman, has been eager to get back out on the field, doing everything possible to keep in shape to be ready for the season to start up again.

“We have had to adapt to the situation, coming into the school year we were expecting a season in the fall, so we worked out 5 to 6 days a week in small pods over the summer, lifting at teammates houses, social distancing, and staying COVID safe,” Heger said.

The team had been holding out hope that the SCIAC would allow the return of fall sports in early 2021. 

Head coach Bob Owens, addressing the team in the past season. Courtesy of Chapman Football

Heger said, “Three days a week we have been doing zoom meetings, going through plays, doing team bonding, especially for the new freshman, and continuing to lift in small pods in our households to stay in shape and ready and prepared if we were going to play some games in the spring.”

The team has not been able to meet all together or officially train which has been frustrating to head coach Bob Owens. 

“First we have had to consider the health and welfare of our players and second, we have had to work within the framework of what has been expected by the county of Orange and the Governor,” Owen explains, “I can’t tell the kids to go run if the county won’t allow them to run in the park.”

Seniors are especially disappointed. They’ve got nowhere to go.

Dillon Keefe, senior outside linebacker, said, “Having what was going to be my final season, completely canceled and taken away from me is pretty rough especially as I had hope for a half-season in the spring.”

Dillon Keefe, senior, outside linebacker. Courtesy of Chapman Football
Head of Chapman University athletics, Terry Boesel. Courtesy of Chapman Athletics

With no football being played any time soon, some seniors like Keefe are planning on returning to Chapman for a fifth year. “Myself, along with many other seniors and teammates of mine have worked hard for many years to get where we are now and to not be able to go out how we wanted to really leave has us questioning what was it all for,” Keefe said.

Terry Boesel, head of athletics un

derstands the football team’s frustrations, explaining, “There are so many factors that come into play when deciding if games can be played. The major issues are the number of tests and the cost of testing that needs to be done if the competition is to occur.  Another factor is the level of transmission risk associated with each sport.”

As disappointing as it has been for the Chapman football team and coaches, everyone has to continue to train and prepare for whatever the next season is going to look like.

“At the end of the day we tell our guys, the winners are the guys that do the work, so you just got to do the work,” said Coach Owens.

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