A quarterback controversy is brewing in Orange, California; Scratch that.
A quarterback controversy is boiling in Orange, California this week as the struggling Chapman Panthers (3-4) look to defend their home field against Redlands (6-1) in the Panthers home finale of a disappointing 2009 season.
The Panthers entered 2009 with arguably their best offensive roster to date, however, due to foul quarterback play the team has struggled against even the weakest of opponents. In 2008 the Panthers defeated Claremont 21-7 on the road; Last week the Panthers barely held on 13-9, and were a poor play calling decision by Claremont head coach Rick Candaele away from being upset at home. It took a miracle for the Panthers to defeat Pomona-Pitzer back in October, a team the Panthers dominated in 2008.
Throughout Chapman's campus, questions are being asked not only about head coach Bob Owens' ability to make the right decision during a game, but also during the preparation for each weeks game.
Enter the quarterback controversy.
Senior QB, Alex Rouch was recruited heavily by Division I schools during his senior season at Grandview Heights High School, where Rouch passed for over 4,000 yards en route to earning himself a spot on Ohio's All State team; one of the most prestigious All State rosters a recruit can land on. Instead of committing to a big time Division I-AA school, or a smaller FBS school, Rouch opted with the Division III Panthers because they offered the academics, and geographic locale Rouch sought necessary to pursue his dream of entering the entertainment industry.
While at Chapman, Rouch has starred in award-winning short films, wrote television pilots, performed on broadcast television, and interned for the director of the film Friday Night Lights, Peter Berg, who has been a mentor to Rouch.
Some on campus even point to Rouch's relationship with Berg as the indirect reason that Rouch was never given the chance to lead the Panthers. As a true sophomore, Rouch took the season off to focus on academic endeavours. In the Fall of 2007, Alex had possibly his most successful semester in the entertainment industry; he began studying under Berg, riveted audiences with his "tough guy persona" as Heath in the comedy Ridiculously Emo, and performed exceedingly well academically. His lack of participation with the Panthers however, was rumored to have earned Rouch a spot in coach Owens dog house, where unfortunately he still remains.
Rouch returned to the Panthers in 2008, where he sat behind QB Eric Marty, the Panthers starter since Rouch's freshman year; After the 2008 season, Marty gave Rouch his blessing, and all signs pointed to 2009 as being the season which Rouch would finally lead the Panthers. Furthering Marty's support of his ex-roomate Rouch, was that in a similar situation, Marty took a year off from the Panthers as a sophomore.
Things didn't quite work that way, though, Despite a reportedly tremendous showing at off season work outs and training camp, Rouch was buried deep on a Panthers roster that held at one point eight QB's.
Eight QB's wasn't enough to the get Panthers offense moving in 2009. Thus far through seven games the Panthers have picked up just over 1,000 yards passing. The collective completion percentage of the Panthers starting quarterbacks this season is barely 48%, and the touchdown to interception ratio for the season is 7 to 8, with one of those touchdown passes coming from kicker Jimmy Adranly.
Many fans, donors, and alum liken Rouch's benching to the reason that the Panthers 2009 season has been such a bust. Every home game over 1,000 disappointed fans; current students, family, and alumni alike, sit frustrated in Ernie Chapman stadium as the Panthers offense struggles to come close to putting up a respectable twenty points. It's nothing against current Panthers QB Blake Vanderweil; he's certainly athletic, but his performance the past two weeks have given the Chapman fan base little hope of defeating Redlands this week.
On the other hand, Rouch has given the entire Panther community hope. Hope of bringing the 2009 Panthers above .500, where they belong. Rouch is much bigger than Vanderweil, and thus has much better field vision; something Vanderweil struggled mightily with in Saturday's win over Claremont. It's also rumored that Rouch has better chemistry with the Panthers receiving core, which is easily their most athletic in Owens' tenure calling the plays for the Panthers.
So it's up to Bob Owens. He's undoubtedly heard the roars of "we want Rouch" chants from the crowds at Ernie Chapman stadium. He's seen how Rouch has impressed not only his team mates, but Owens' staff in practice. He's seen Rouch's numbers in High School with the Bobcats. The fans have spoken, the players have spoken.
The future is now, the future is Rouch.