Panthers Air Raid Dismantles Polar Bears

By SEBASTIAN SANCHEZ

After squeezing by the Wesleyan Cardinals for their season opener, the football team soundly handled the Bowdoin Polar Bears 41–14 on Saturday, Sept. 26, improving to a 2–0 record.

Against Wesleyan, the Panthers only mustered 384 total yards. Against Bowdoin, quarterback Jared Lebowitz ’18 made sure that every segment of the offense was working, racking up 528 total yards of offense.

In the first quarter, the guests did not score until 3:28 left in the first quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by Matt Cardew ’18, who has been in the backfield in the absence of Diego Meritus ’19.

“It felt great to set the tone,” Cardew said. “I think our entire offense had a lot of energy on that first drive and it definitely carried through the rest of the game.”

From this moment on, it was smooth sailing. In the second quarter, Middlebury’s defense kept its shutout intact in the second quarter as the offense continued to capitalize on the Polar Bears’ weak front and secondary lines of defense.

With decent field position at their own 30-yard line, Lebowitz marched the Panthers down the field. Starting with an 18-yard pass to Tanner Contois ’18, Lebowitz, just two plays later, threw a 33-yard dime to Contois who grabbed it out of the air and tiptoed to the sidelines to get a foot in bounds. Lebowitz completed the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Maxwell Rye ’20.

After a short offensive series by the tired Polar Bears, Middlebury returned the punt to the Bowdoin 49-yard line. In this drive, Lebowitz completed passes to several different Panthers, including Banky, Bochman and Frank Cosolito ’20. Bochman sealed the drive, catching a 13-yard pass from a red hot Lebowitz, his second passing touchdown of the game giving the guests a 21–0 advantage.

The offense continued to roll, as Bowdoin’s offense could not past Middlebury’s lines of defense. With eight minutes left in the first half, however, the Panthers found themselves at their own 10-yard line, presenting an opportunity for Bowdoin to change the pace of the game.

Middlebury’s field position did not stop the Panther offense from finding a way to score. Cardew rushed for 18 yards, Lebowitz rushed for 17 yards and completed a short pass to Bochman putting the Panthers at their own 38-yard line. Two plays later, Lebowitz connected with Banky for a 48-yard bomb down the field for his third touchdown of the game and Banky’s first score of the season.

Though Carter Massengill ’20 missed the extra point, the Panthers commanded a 27–0 lead heading into halftime.

Senior linebackers John Jackson ’18, Aaron Slodowitz ’18 and Robert Wood ’18, along with safety Kevin Hopsicker ’18 terrorized the Polar Bears on defense as Bowdoin was forced to punt almost every possession.

Wood commented on the way the defense set the tone throughout the game and helped propel the offense. For Wood, it wasn’t the big defensive plays that helped sway the pace of the game, it was the discipline and consistency of Middlebury’s defensive unit that made them successful.

“Our mentality this week was the same as any. ‘Just do your job and if we execute and play smart we can stop any offense,’” Wood said. “Additionally, I can trust that our coaches will do a great job of putting us in the right place to make the plays.”

Wood added: “Any turnover or three and out is pretty big on defense. It gets us off of the field and gives our offense a chance to get back out there and put some more points on the board.”

And still the Panthers continued to roll, coming out in the third quarter. At the 12-minute mark, Lebowitz and his offensive unit started in great field position at the Bowdoin 43 yard-line. Lebowitz quickly completed two passes, one to Martinez and one to Banky to set up a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Connell ’21, the first of his career.

Leading 34–0 with seven minutes left in the third quarter, Charlie Ferguson ’21 rushed for 47 yards on seven carries, while Lebowitz completed two passes Rye and Mike Maldonado ’19. The Panthers capped their lead with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Ferguson and their lead increased to 41–0.

In the fourth quarter, Bowdoin scored two touchdowns, but the lead was too great for the hosts to come back. Lebowitz finished with 316 yards and four touchdown passes, while Banky racked up 101 yards.

Asked about his team success and his composure to lead his team to a 41–14 victory, Middlebury’s quarterback had a lot to say.

“Football is a weird blend of perfect science and chaotic mayhem. Comfortability in the pocket comes from my confidence in the offensive line having the best protection called and winning their one-on-one matchups,” Lebowitz. “It all starts and ends with those guys — they are the cornerstones of our offense and we can’t function consistently at this high of level without them.

Both Cardew and Meritus echoed their quarterback’s praise of the team, respectively.

“It felt great being a part of the offense that scored so much. It was rewarding because we executed everything we’ve practiced for on pretty much every play,” Cardew said. “I think we were able to stay focused throughout the game because the lead gave us a chance to put our younger guys in. It’s always fun to watch them succeed.

“We were definitely cleaner this week than last week,” Meritus said.”I think anytime you hold a team to 14 and put up 41 points you need to be happy with the way you played. However still lots to improve on. If we want to continue to win each week we are going to need to finish each game strong.”

The Panthers have won their last two and look to take a win from Colby this upcoming Saturday, Sept. 30. While their contest against Amherst will be their biggest challenge of the season so far, Lebowitz and his offense seem to be throwing, running and hitting in the right direction.

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