Football

Cougars Win Big In Program's 500th Game

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

 

Azusa Pacific beat rival Humboldt State 45-13 on Oct. 15 in the program’s 500th game, led by the efforts of junior quarterback Andrew Elffers and a three-headed rushing attack.

The Cougars jumped out to an early 7-6 lead, and didn’t let the Lumberjacks score again until the game was well into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore running back Kurt Scoby broke through a group of Humboldt defenders on the two-yard line to open up scoring with a 17-yard touchdown.

Humboldt countered with a score of their own on the next drive, when Humboldt quarterback Robert Webber hit wide receiver Richard Doctor for a 50-yard touchdown. APU blocked the point after touchdown and never lost the lead.

On the next APU drive, Scoby fumbled the ball and Humboldt recovered. The Lumberjacks appeared to have some momentum until they fumbled, and APU sophomore linebacker Aaron Berry recovered the ball and returned it 62-yards for a touchdown.

“I picked it up and I took it five yards and the ref didn’t say anything. I looked to the side and I saw a couple other [teammates] who I knew would block for me, and I took it to the house,” Berry said. “I just ran for dear life.”

Berry’s touchdown was a momentum changer as it appeared that Humboldt was on the verge of scoring again and taking the lead.

“Coach says that we all put a brick onto this wall that APU has built. Every player that has played here has added on to the wall. It’s just amazing that I was able to put another brick up on that wall,” Berry said.

The Cougars forced a three and out on Humboldt’s next drive. APU also punted on their next drive, but came up with a field goal on the following series.

On their last drive before the half ended, Elffers connected with senior wide receiver Ethan Zeidler for a 28-yard catch that would have set the Cougars up for first and goal if they hadn’t drawn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The penalty was one of seven Cougar penalties during the game that cost the team 60 yards. The offense was able to make up for their mistake, and Elffers was able to overcome this and hit Scoby for a seven-yard touchdown.

“In football, you don’t want to let your emotions get too high or too low. Mistakes will happen, yet it is not about the mistakes but how you come back from them,” Elffers said.

The Cougars led at halftime 24-6. On the second-half kickoff, the Cougars went for an onside kick, which Humboldt recovered in APU territory. The Cougars were able to defend their decision by forcing a second three and out.

Neither team scored during their first three drives of the second half. APU had two turnovers during this span, which the Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize on. Humboldt went for a fourth down conversion but failed. APU took over on downs and junior running back Aaron Baltazar ran for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. Junior running back Chris Solomon led the team in rushing on the night, racking up 68 yards on six carries.

“It’s great to see Baltazar get out there. It’s really exciting to see Chris Solomon be able to be in there also and get some carries,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said.

The Cougars scored again twice before the end of the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Elffers and a 10-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Chad Jeffries.

Humboldt managed to score once more, but the game was well out of reach with only three minutes remaining.

Speaking to the occasion of the 500th game, head coach Victor Santa Cruz believes it was an important moment for APU, for both current and former players, coaches and students.

“This 500th game marked a special opportunity in life to come out and display a lot of what this school represents,” Santa Cruz said. “It makes a statement about what this program has stood for, about what the alumni are a part of.”

Santa Cruz saw how special this game was, highlighted by hundreds of APU students wearing a commemorative 500th game shirt. He also noted the importance of big plays in a game such as this one.

“Big plays beget big plays. You can sense the frenzy on the sideline start to take over,” Santa Cruz said.

This game was especially important for APU to bounce back, as it followed the Cougars’ first loss of the season.

“Last week’s loss was a great lesson, a teachable moment, and our guys took the teaching,” Santa Cruz said. “Within themselves, they wanted to grow more and get after it.”

This was APU’s second time playing GNAC rival Humboldt State this season. They won the first meeting 38-27 on Sept. 10.

“In the GNAC, we have a very competitive league,” Elffers said. “It’s hard to beat a team twice, but that’s part of the joy of playing in this league. Our team accepts the challenge and we’ll battle any team that comes in front.”

Coach Bo Beatty has seen the success this year and through hundreds of the program’s previous games. Beatty is a linebacker coach that played for APU in 1992 and ’93 and has been coaching for the Cougars since 1995.

“This team to me this year is special because I’m watching first-teamers coach up second-teamers. Guys truly care about each other and enjoy their success,” Beatty said. “To me, when a guy cares more about his teammates than he does himself, that’s when I think you’re onto the right thing.”

After another dominant performance at Simon Fraser on Oct. 22, the Cougars defeated the Clan 57-0 and tied an NCAA Division II record with three pick-six plays on defense.

The Cougars moved up four spots over the past two weeks in the AFCA D-II Coaches Poll, jumping to 15th in NCAA Division II football.

The Cougars will play their next game against Central Washington at APU’s Homecoming game on Oct. 29. The game will have major implications as both teams are fighting to finish in first place of the GNAC. APU beat Central Washington 27-17 on Sept. 17, but since then, the Wildcats have been on a four game winning streak.

APU is currently 7-1 on the season and remains undefeated in GNAC Conference play.

Brothers On & Off The Gridiron

This article originally appeared in ZU News.

 

Josiah and Jonathan Thropay were raised in a different way than most people. Their father would often wake them up at 6:30 a.m. to run 2.5 miles followed by push-ups, sit-ups and singing lessons, all before school started.

Fast forward to today, and the Thropay brothers are both seniors at APU who lead the football team both on and off the field.

“They’re leaders on the team. Every player to them matters,” head coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “They hold guys accountable. They’re also trying to relate and communicate to all of the team.”

This is Jonathan’s fourth year playing for the Cougars. He is an outside linebacker who was named first team all-GNAC last year. As a junior in 2015, he led the team with 81 tackles, including seven for a loss and a sack.

Despite the big numbers, Santa Cruz is quick to point out that it’s the brothers’ behind-the-scenes work that really makes the difference.

“The thing that stands out is their love for the team and their love for the game,” Santa Cruz said. “It shows up in the off-season in how you practice, how you prepare. They go the distance when it comes to practice and watching film.”

Josiah transferred from Mt. San Antonio College his sophomore year. In 2015, he led the Cougars’ tight ends with 12 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m here, number one, because of Jonathan and two, because of what was happening here at APU. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life,” Josiah said.

Although they’re both seniors on the team, Josiah is actually 11 months older than Jonathan. When Josiah transferred, it was the first time they had ever played together on the same team.

“He’s my brother, my best friend,” Josiah said. “I don’t view him at all as a teammate. We’re each other’s biggest fans. He gives me added motivation to be great. Aside from personal ambition and wanting to do good for the team, I want to be good for him, too.”

Both brothers are constantly watching each other. When one is on the sideline, the other is on the field playing.

“When he makes a play, does something good or something bad, it affects me way more than if someone else on the field was to mess up,” Jonathan said. “Or, if [Josiah] makes a big play, I’m more excited than if another teammate was to make a good play.”

The Thropay brothers have come a long way since they started playing football at APU. Jonathan remembers the days when he would be late to practice and even fall asleep at team meetings.

“There was a lot of immaturity I was dealing with,” Jonathan said. “They hold you to that much higher of a standard here than high school football. That’s where I’ve grown the most.”

Josiah has also grown with the help of his coaches at APU.

“For me, it’s been a mental growth,” he said. “The coaches have definitely challenged me and said things to make me go work on myself. I’m able to process and not get down on myself—[I’ve learned how] to conquer any situation.”

Although the coaches have helped the Thropay brothers throughout the last three years, there is one mentor that set the example for them long before they ended up at APU.

“The person I’ve looked up to most my whole life is my dad,” Jonathan said. 
“He’s the one who taught me my work ethic. He created that desire in us to be the best we could, be the strongest we could be.”

Their father, Reuben Thropay, was a walk-on for the UCLA football team in college, and worked hard to instill personal values and a love for sports in his sons.

“He put us in this thing called Care Youth League. That’s where we got introduced to football, basketball, baseball and soccer,” Josiah said. “Growing up, we fell in love with football.”

Reuben Thropay sang devotionals with his sons when they were young and ran with them before school started, four days a week.

“Everything I believe a man should embody, as far as characteristics, is what my dad is,” Josiah said. “He never let us quit something. He always said you’re gonna finish the season. It’s always played out for the better for us…He molded us into the people we are today.”

Josiah Thropay will graduate this year with a degree in accounting and plans to become a Certified Public Accountant.

Jonathan Thropay, a physics major, plans to get a job at his uncle’s business, a company that deals with medical physics. But before he does that, he plans to take a year to serve as a missionary in another country.

While it’s going to be hard losing the Thropay brothers, Santa Cruz is confident the team will continue to succeed.

“It’s always hard replacing players like that,” Santa Cruz said. “I think we will fare well because they are setting an example, a legacy that’s going to be passed on.”

Not only are the Thropays leaders on the team, but they also helped recruit the team’s starting runningback, Kurt Scoby.

“I’ve known the Thropays all my life. I went to church with them,” Scoby said. “I’m stoked that I transferred. They helped me out with this great decision.”

Scoby transferred from Fresno State University where he redshirted his freshmen year. Scoby led the team last year with 1,167 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named first team all-GNAC in 2015 as a freshman.

“Jonathan told me that my mindset would be completely different than it used to be. I was starstruck,” Scoby said. “They’re great people. They love you and care about you, not just the football part of you. They always want the best for the person ahead of them, not just themselves.”

The Cougars are currently 5-0 this season for the first time since 2002, and for the fifth time in school program history. APU is currently ranked 10th in the AFCA Division II Top-25 coaches poll, which is a first in program history since entering NCAA Division II football. They will look to continue their success on the road on Oct. 8 against Colorado School of Mines.