Football Holds Off Wesleyan in Season Opener

Bobby Ritter picks off a pass late in the game (Will Costello).
Bobby Ritter picks off a pass late in the game (Will Costello).

Middlebury held off a late charge by Wesleyan, as the Panthers picked up a 30-27 victory in the season-opener for both teams on Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium. Middlebury earned its sixth win in its last seven games against Wesleyan and returns to action at Bowdoin next Saturday. The Cardinals will play their home-opener when they entertain Tufts on the same day.

Middlebury scored on its opening drive, when quarterback Jared Lebowitz hit tight end Frank Cosolito 10 yards out, before he scampered 60 more yards for a 70-yard scoring strike and a 6-0 lead.

Wesleyan answered when Mark Piccirillo connected with Mike Breuler for a 52-yard touchdown, giving the Cardinals a 7-6 advantage.

On the ensuing kickoff, Jimmy Martinez, who holds five school records in track and field, returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead.

The Panthers added to their lead late in the quarter when Martinez scored his second touchdown of the game. A nine-play, 65-yard drive was capped by a 25-yard connection from Lebowitz to Martinez down the right side. The duo hooked up three times on the drive for 54 yards.

Wesleyan registered the only points of the second quarter when Piccirillo found Breuler from 23 yards out, making it a 20-13 game at the half.

Middlebury was the lone team to score in the third quarter, as Carter Massengill connected from 20 yards for a 23-13 advantage with 1:14 remaining in the quarter.

The Panthers gained some breathing room in the fourth after a 25-yard touchdown pass from Lebowitz to Maxim Bochman gave them a 30-13 lead with 9:17 remaining. Conrado Banky pulled in a 32-yard reception on the drive, before Bochman dodged two defenders after his reception for the touchdown.

Wesleyan marched 84 yards on six plays in just 2:04, cutting the lead to 30-20 with 7:07 left to play. Dario Highsmith and Ryan Earle each caught 22 yard passes before Hallvard Lundevall found the end zone on a seven-yard strike.

Elias Camacho recovered the onside kick, as the Cardinals took over possession at their own 47. The offense wasn't able to move as quickly this time, but the visitors did find pay dirt with 3:15 remaining on a three-yard touchdown reception by Breuler.

Trailing 30-27, Wesleyan tried to recover a short kick-off, but Banky handled the ball for the Panthers. The Cardinals held and got the ball back on their own 39, before Middlebury's Bobby Ritter picked off a pass on the first play of the drive, returning it to the Wesleyan 14.

The Panthers were unable to get into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs at the Cardinals' six yard line. With just 56 seconds remaining, Wesleyan was only able to get to its own 42 before time expired.

Lebowitz finished the day going 22-44 for 352 yards with three touchdown passes. His top target was Bochman, who earned a career-high seven receptions for 114 yards with a touchdown. Banky had five catches for 73 yards, while Martinez caught five balls for 66 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Defensively, Wesley Becton led all players with 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack. Aaron Slodowitz made 10 stops in the game, while Ritter and Justin Fahey each made nine stops and picked off a pass. John Jackson finished with seven tackles to give him 102 for his career, along with a pair of sacks.

Piccirillo completed 39-53 passes for Wesleyan, earning 432 yards with four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Breuler led all receivers with 15 receptions, totaling 178 yards with three touchdowns. Eric Meyreles caught eight passes on the afternoon for 77 yards. Shayne Kaminski and Brandon Morris each made nine tackles to lead the Cardinal defense.

Wesleyan outgained Middlebury 451-394 and held a 35:18 to 24:42 advantage in time of possession. The teams were whistled for 20 penalties, resulting in 172 yards.