Football Notches Season-Opening Victory Over Wesleyan, Holds on to Win 30-27


Emma Stapleton

Middlebury College Football Team v.s. Wesleyan


In a contest that came down to the final minutes of play, the football team took its season opener against the Wesleyan Cardinals 30–27 on Saturday, Sept. 16.

The opening minutes of the game was studded with excitement as Middlebury scored on the opening drive. Starting quarterback Jared Lebowitz ’18 connected with Frank Cosolito ’19 on a 10-yard pass, which Cosolito took 60 yards into the Panther end zone. Middlebury missed the extra point, giving the hosts a 6–0 advantage.

Wesleyan answered with a 52-yard touchdown of its own and made its extra point giving the Cardinals a 7–6 lead. It would, however, be short lived. Jimmy Martinez ’19 bobbed and weaved through Wesleyan tacklers on the ensuing kickoff to give the Panthers a 13–7 lead. Martinez, who holds five track and field school records, caught the ball at the four-yard line and returned it 96 yards for a Middlebury touchdown.

“Jimmy’s house call was a huge moment for the entire team,” Jourdon Delerme-Brown ’19 said. “It was an electric moment on the sidelines for sure. Everybody, offensive, defensive, tackles and D-backs, were super energized.”

Martinez did not stop there. Late in the first quarter, Lebowitz connected with Martinez three times, including a 25-yard touchdown pass-and-catch to give the Panthers a 20–7 lead. Lebowitz, who finished the game 22–44 for 352 total yards, continued to dominate the passing game.

While the hosts were unable to score, their defense held the Cardinals to one score in the second quarter. Leading by seven at the half, the Panthers looked to come out firing in the second half.

Middlebury only scored once in the third quarter. Unable to find their earlier offensive connections, the Panthers were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Carter Massengill ’19. His field goal would prove to be decisive by the end of the contest as Middlebury would win by three.

In the opening minutes of the fourth, Lebowitz connected with Conrado Banky ’19 for two passes, before hitting Maxim Bochman ’20 on the 25-yard route to give the Panthers a 30–13 advantage. Wesleyan, however, was quick to answer. Eighty-four yards and six plays later, the Cardinals had marched down the field, scored a touchdown and sealed the extra point. Trailing by 10, Wesleyan recovered an onside kick to swing the momentum of the contest and with 3:15 remaining on the clock, Wesleyan scored.

The Panthers, however, did not lose their composure, even after they were unable to score off a short kick-off and had to punt. Wesleyan started from its own 39-yard line. With the season opener on the line, someone needed to change the momentum and put Middlebury on top.

Bobby Ritter ’19 answered with a interception on the first play of the drive. From the stands, it seemed that he had just broken up the pass, but suddenly a roar erupted through the crowd as Ritter sprinted towards the Panther endzone. Though he was tackled short of the goal line, the game was all but won at that point.

“Bobby’s pick restored life back in our side and got everyone’s energy levels back to 100 percent” said Diego Meritus, who was sidelined on Saturday’s game due to a quad injury. “They had just scored on us and started eating away at our lead. But Bobby’s pick really brought us back to where we needed to be.”

Wesleyan was unable to score in the final 40 seconds, completing Middlebury’s first victory of the season. Meritus further weighed in on the success of his team.

“We knew everyone would have to contribute in order for us to place ourselves in a position to win and I think that much was clear on Saturday,” Meritus said. “We had guys playing positions they don’t usually play and making big plays and that made a huge difference.

“More importantly, we matched Wesleyans physically and intensity,” the third year running back said. “Everyone knows them around the league as intense and physical, but clearly we did not back down from them and we came out with a win.”

The Panthers’ big showdown with Amherst on Oct. 7 is fast approaching, but they will be back in action before that this Saturday as they take on Bowdoin in Brunswick, Maine.