With “Road to State” and “Eagle Eye on the Prize” signs in the background, Chapin players hugged each other, some with tears in their eyes.
A region championship for the first time since 1992 gave the Eagles hope that this year would be different and they could avoid another first-round playoff loss.
But a 28-18 loss to Chapman left Chapin disappointed, recounting every misstep and every break that went against the Eagles.
“It was a lack of focus,” Chapin coach Justin Gentry said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s a big-time game. I’m just very disappointed.”
Four first-half fumbles and costly penalties doomed the Eagles. When Chapin looked to be on the cusp of scoring, it wouldn’t. When Chapin appeared to take momentum from the Panthers, it would hand it back.
“We couldn’t catch a break,” Gentry said. “You can’t beat good teams and turn the ball over, and we did that in the first half. It just wasn’t our night.”
The first fumble came from quarterback Matt Charpia at Chapman’s 36-yard-line. The Panthers extended their lead on an 18-yard run by wide receiver Tyshun Samuel.
The Eagles fumbled again on the first play of the subsequent drive, putting Chapman on the Chapin 34-yard-line. Though the Eagles’ defense was able to prevent Chapman from scoring, stopping the Panthers at the 5-yard-line, Chapin didn’t help itself on offense.
With a minute left in the half, Chapin fumbled for the fourth time at the 22-yard-line, coughing up an opportunity to tie the game at the half.
Chapman got the breaks Chapin didn’t. On the first drive of the second half, Samuel fumbled near the end zone, and the officials ruled it a touchdown. In the second quarter, a fumble by quarterback Malik Gray was recovered by the Eagles, but Gray was ruled down.
In the fourth quarter, Chapin running back Logan Bailey got the Eagles to the 1-yard-line with a 21-yard run, but an unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the ball back to the 16-yard-line.
Chapin — Charpia 20 run (kick failed) 9:47
Chapman — Hezekiah Williams 2 pass from Gray (Brian Rubalcava kick) 7:01
Chapman — Samuel 18 run (Rubalcava kick) :14
Chapman — Samuel 5 run (Rubalcava kick) 7:03
Chapin — Charpia 11 run (two-point conversion failed) 7:54
Chapman — Jaylin Parks 1 run (Rubalcava kick) 2:36
Chapin — Zach Krumrey 6 pass from Charpia (two-point conversion failed) 1:55