Aiming for perfection

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Ricky Bautista
Ricky Bautista has led Chapman to an unbeaten start in SCIAC play.
Photo by Larry Newman Photography for Chapman athletics

By Josh Smith

When the football leaves Ricky Bautista’s hands, his teammates and coaches as well as Chapman fans feel confident it will land safely in a receiver’s hands.

That certainty is bolstered by the senior quarterback’s career completion percentage of 70.2, including a 74-percent mark during the Panthers’ current four-game winning streak in SCIAC play. With their quarterback making sure-handed throws, the Panthers are clicking on offense and find themselves atop the conference standings.

“Ricky is very accurate,” Chapman coach Bob Owens said. “Ricky throws an excellent ball. Sometimes guys can see the field, but they can’t always get the ball there.

“Ricky throws a very strong ball, but also a very catchable ball.”

Through six games, Bautista has completed 121 of 172 pass attempts with 16 touchdowns and just one interception.

Following this week’s 20-of-27 performance, which went for 274 yards and three touchdowns, in a 38-21 win over La Verne, the quarterback’s completion percentage in conference play is approaching 75 percent.

“No. 1 is the offensive line. They give me time to make decisions,” Bautista said of his ability to make on-target throws. But he also credits the work he puts in with offensive coordinator Casey Shine.

“Ricky is very much a student of the game,” Owens said.

“Breaking down film with Shine is one of the main things that helps me a lot,” Bautista agreed. “The breakdown of film is really crucial prior to games.

“We always say, ‘in the mind of Shine,’ because he’s up in the box during the games. So I want to be thinking what he’s thinking.”

Shine was a key reason Bautista found a home at Chapman. The quarterback played his first two seasons at Saddleback College. Following his sophomore season, Bautista had opportunities to play at small schools on the east coast.

“I decided I didn’t want to go and be so far away from home,” the quarterback recalled. “I came and visited Chapman, and I sat down with Coach O. And I knew Coach Shine because he was recruiting me out of high school to go to Santa Ana Junior College.”

“I loved the school and the feel,” continued Bautista, who ultimately joined Chapman’s program in the spring of 2016. “That’s how I ended up here.”

It also helped that the Panthers’ offense is similar to the one he ran at Saddleback and in high school.

In his first year with Chapman, Bautista split time at quarterback. That experience allowed him to get a feel for the team, and he has excelled as the starter this year.

“Just putting in the time has allowed him to be stronger at the position,” Owens said.

“I’m more comfortable with the system,” Bautista added.

Bautista is just one component, albeit a key piece, to the Panthers’ success on offense.

“We have good people around Ricky,” Owens said.

“We have a very competent offensive line, which allows him to do some of the things he can, and the time necessary to look over the defense,” he continued. “We have Jake Isabel, who has been an outstanding receiver for us the last two years, and a return guy. And we have Joe Mudie, our running back.

“It allows us to be good in the receiving game, good in the run game. And having Ricky to engineer that is a perfect storm.”

The offense has clicked the last four weeks, helping the team shake off an 0-2 non-conference performance.

“At halftime, we were up in both games,” Bautista said, reflecting on losses to Linfield and Trinity (Texas). “I think the problem we had there was we would play hard the first half and come out flat in the third quarter.”

“After those first two losses, we grew as a team.”

Since then, Chapman has averaged 42.5 points per game en route to building a 4-0 SCIAC record. The current conference leaders have a meeting with second-place Cal Lutheran (5-1 overall, 3-1 SCIAC) this week.

However, despite a strong opponent coming to town with conference implications on the line, Chapman remains focused on themselves – the same approach they took after dropping back-to-back non-conference matchups.

“What’s important for us is that we play to our potential,” Owens said. “Defensively, we think we’re capable of being very good, but we have to play that way. Offensively, we think we’re capable of lighting it up, but again, we have to get it done on the field in that particular game.

“If we play well and do the things we’re capable of, and play great special teams, we feel very good about who we are – and the possibilities.”

IIAC nail-biters

There were several close games played in Iowa this weekend, with three games decided by six points or less.

James Skerjanec caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Jonathan Curti with 22 seconds remaining in the first half, and Jackson Hinze followed with the PAT. That score proved to be the difference in Nebraska Wesleyan’s 14-13 win at Buena Vista.

It was the first win of the year for the Prairie Wolves, snapping a seven-game skid.

Shaka Taylor carried the ball 32 times for 116 yards and a touchdown and also led the team with seven receptions for 98 yards.

Elsewhere, Loras’ Ike Cloward scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:35 left to play, breaking a 38-38 deadlock.

Cloward finished the game with 83 rushing yards while Bob Kelley completed 23-of-31 pass attempts for 385 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Josh Schulte, in the 44-38 win over Coe.

Additionally, Dubuque held off Simpson, winning 28-27 in overtime.

After Maurece Herrion scored on a 9-yard touchdown in OT and Brayden Neuendorf added the extra point, Simpson answered with 3-yard touchdown pass from Sam Sasso to Ricky Reeve. However, the point after attempt was unsuccessful.

Dwayne Allen Jr. paced Dubuque with 202 rushing yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Spartan defense recorded four interceptions and broke up six passes in the victory.

Number of the Week

5 – as in the number of touchdowns scored by brothers Brady and DJ Winter this season for Pacific Lutheran. The duo has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season for the Lutes. This week, DJ Winter had two catches for 40 yards and one touchdown. Jacob King added two receptions for 77 yards and a score in the Lute’s 27-14 win at Willamette.

The rest of the West

Linfield’s Willy Warne connected on field goals of 32, 20, 43 and 35 yards to help the Wildcats build a 12-point lead and eventually top George Fox, 12-6. … UW-Oshkosh used a 21-point third quarter to pull away with a 42-28 win at UW-La Crosse. Sam Mentkowski caught four passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. … Wartburg running backs Connor Schrader and Dylan Binion combined for 155 rushing yards and four touchdowns to propel the Knights to a 41-16 win. … St. Thomas limited Hamline to 71 total yards of offense and five first downs during an 84-0 shutout. Luke Swenson registered two of the team’s 14 tackles for a loss and recovered a fumble for the Tommies. … LeAnthony Reasnover racked up 274 rushing yards and three touchdowns, carrying Eureka to a 37-20 win at MacMurray. The Red Devils and Highlanders are now tied for second place in the UMAC, one game behind St. Scholastica. … Chris Beeson carried the ball 18 times for 159 yards and scored five of Cal Lutheran’s eight rushing touchdowns in the Kingsmen’s 60-34 win over Whittier. … Mark Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns while Tim Jansen hauled in three touchdown passes in UW-Platteville’s 34-14 win at UW-Eau Claire. … Zach Edwards threw two touchdown passes to both Aaron Olson and Hunter Thompson in St. Scholastica’s 49-21 win at Crown. … Jackson Erdmann threw five touchdown passes, three to Will Gillach, and St. John’s cruised past Gustavus Adolphus, 41-17. … Redlands scored 17 unanswered points late to defeat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 42-25. Levi Plante finished with 298 passing yards and three touchdowns for the Bulldogs while Spencer Conley nabbed two of the defense’s three interceptions. … Marcus Hudson hauled in nine catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns to lead UW-Whitewater to a 20-7 win at UW-River Falls. … Chad Johnson and Blake Kragnes each surpassed 100 yards rushing, combining for three touchdowns along the way, as Concordia-Moorhead took down Augsburg, 42-20. … Kobe Williams hauled in seven passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns, leading Pacific to a 17-7 win at Lewis and Clark. … Payton Bowdry, Dom McDew and Nate VanBeusekom all rushed for touchdowns to poewer Northwestern (Minn.) past Martin Luther, 30-14. … Levi Wolf returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown during UW-Stout’s 23-17 win over UW-Stevens Point. … Westminster (Mo.) got 140 rushing yards and a touchdown from Latif Adams and went on to beat Greenville, 24-14. … Gonzalo Pirela caught 31-yard touchdown pass from Jack Goldstein to help St. Olaf erase a third-quarter deficit and beat Carleton, 29-26. Goldstein threw for 324 yards and had three touchdowns on the day. … Ian Kolste passed for 224 yards and three touchdowns to power Whitworth past Puget Sound, 38-23. … Akenyon Bagley and DeMarcus Collins combined for 151 rushing yards and three touchdowns to help Iowa Wesleyan overcome an 11-point deficit and top Minnesota-Morris, 24-17.

Rank 'em

Eight teams from the West Region were ranked in the latest Top 25 poll.

UW-Oshkosh remained ranked No. 3 in the Week 8 poll. St. Thomas climbed two spots to No. 4, while Linfield, St. John’s and UW-Platteville each rose one spot to Nos. 6, 7 and 9, respectively.

Wartburg jumped one spot to No. 19 as George Fox slid one position to No. 20. Concordia-Moorhead checked in at No. 21, holding its ranking from a week ago.

UW-Whitewater (18), Whitworth (5), UW-Stout (4), UW-La Crosse (3) and Cal Lutheran (2) received votes in this week’s poll.

Be heard

Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the Region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at josh.smith@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.

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Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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