Middlebury Football Secures Third-Place Finish


Maggie Cochrane

By Stephen Etna

The last day of football season is always an interesting intersection of past and future. Next fall, a new class of first years will replace this year’s seniors, who, like most of the thousands of Panthers who came before them, will probably not have a chance to play on a football team again.

Last Saturday, the Panther football team came together to finish out their season proudly as they dismantled Tufts at home on Youngman Field, racking up points en route to a 48-13 win.

As fans of the Middlebury football team have grown accustomed to this season, the Panthers opened the game with a display of defensive prowess. Middlebury crippled Tufts’ passing offense, allowing only one first down on Tufts’ two first drives. 

Following the second of such drives, Middlebury took over on their own 22 yard line, where quarterback Matt Milano ’16 and company got to work on offense.

Following a slew of nice runs from running back Jon Hurvitz ’17, Milano found a rhythm with his talented receivers. 

Finding tight-end Daniel Fulham ’18 for a few key receptions, Milano capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown throw to Fulham for his first career touchdown, putting the Panthers’ up 7-0.

The ensuing drive featured play uncharacteristic of a typically disciplined unit. An unsportsmanlike conduct call negated what would’ve been a sack by nose-tackle Kyle Ashley ’16, and Tufts completed two passes to gain 20 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown strike against the Middlebury pass defense. Tufts, refusing to lie down, equalized the score at 7-7.

In the Panthers’ next offensive drive, running back Andrew Miller ’16 showcased Middlebury’s running game, gaining 30 yards on the drive. To complete the drive, Milano completed a six-yard pass to Fulham at first-and-goal to record Fulham’s second touchdown of the day.

The teams then traded possessions as Middlebury’s defense shut the Jumbos down. 

With standout linebackers Tim Patricia ’16 and Jake Vacovec ’15 making frequent visits to the Jumbos backfield, Tufts found it difficult to gain footing. In response, the Milano found Matt Minno ’16 for a 57-yard bomb down the sideline.

In the second quarter Tufts would took over at midfield after a fumbled punt. Following a big run against Middlebury’s front seven, the Jumbos scored with less than three minutes remaining in the half to make the score 21-13. Middlebury countered with an impressive two-minute drill, capped by a 34-yard strike by the talented Brendan Rankowitz ’15 to set up the Panthers on Tufts’ one-yard-line. During this drive, Rankowitz took on the first defender at the six yard line before dragging two additional defensive backs over five yards, a play which elicited raucous cheers from the assembled crowd at Youngman Stadium.

Milano, on a timely third-down run, ran to score the last touchdown of the half, which ended with a score of 27-13 after the extra point was blocked.

 Midway through the third quarter, Middlebury added to their already considerable lead. After a twenty yard completion to Ryan Rizzo ’17, Milano completed the drive with a 13-yard pitch and catch with Rankowitz.

 A key sack by Addison Pierce ’17 on the ensuing Tufts drive allowed the Panthers to again take the helm at offense. Apparently time was at a premium on the Middlebury sideline, as Milano found the speedy Rizzo for a 72-yard strike on the fifth play of the drive. After yet another forced three-and-out by Tufts, Milano found Rankowitz for a 33-yard score through the air, which signified the last significant action by the starters of the day.

The final score tallied in at 48-13 in Middlbury’s favor, with Milano responsible for seven touchdowns, including six on the ground and one through the air. 

Finishing the year with a record of 6-2, the Panthers finish third in the NESCAC behind undefeated Amherst and 7-1 Wesleyan, the two teams to whom they lost.

Over the past four years the team has won 24 out of 32 games, including last year’s NESCAC title — a shining period in Middlebury football history that the seniors ought to be proud of.

Meanwhile, the team has answered the greatest question mark that they faced at the beginning of the season: the replacement of all-everything quarterback Mac Foote ’14. After starting the season slowly, Milano has rebounded to record one of the most prolific passing seasons in the history of the program. With Milano back at the helm in 2015, the Panthers will look to improve upon this year’s record.

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