Cardinals outlast Panther eleven
MIDDLEBURY — In a Saturday matchup of the 2013 NESCAC football co-champions, visiting Wesleyan held off a late charge by Middlebury to earn a 22-14 win in the season-opener for both teams. Wesleyan took advantage of two interceptions and 83 yards of penalties on Middlebury. The Panthers return to action at Colby this Saturday.
Wesleyan scored first on the first play of a drive, a 65-yard catch-and-run completion from quarterback Jesse Warren to Jay Fabien.
Middlebury answered with an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Quarterback Matt Milano found Grant Luna three times on the drive for 40 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown catch.
The Cardinals came right back on their ensuing drive to take a 13-7 lead. A 38-yard kickoff return by Devon Carillo started the drive just short of midfield. Carillo, who moved to quarterback for several plays on the drive, rushed for a big first down at the Middlebury 43 on third-and-two. The touchdown came when Warren found Jon Day on the left side for 16 yards. Middlebury’s Tim Patricia blocked the extra point attempt. That score held until the second half.
Jake Bussani picked off a pass in the end zone to end Middlebury’s opening drive of the second half. Milano was intercepted again later in the quarter, and Justin Sanchez returned the pick 41 yards for a touchdown.
Wesleyan added a 19-yard field goal from Ike Fuchs early in the fourth quarter, increasing its lead to 22-7. The score was set up by a 55-yard punt return that Donnie Cimino took to the Middlebury 10.
Middlebury got back in the game with a 10-play, 64-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. Milano found Luna twice for 25 yards before hooking up with Ryan Rizzo for a nine-yard scoring strike with 2:04 remaining.
The Middlebury defense held as the Panthers were expecting to get the ball back trailing 22-14, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave Wesleyan a first down, and the Cardinals ran out the clock.
Milano finished 23 of 36 for 204 yards passing in his first career start. Rookie running back Drew Jacobs rushed 20 times for 81 yards. Luna led all receivers with eight receptions for 91 yards, while Jacobs caught five passes for 32 yards, giving him 113 yards of total offense.
Matthew Benedict made a dozen tackles, while Dan Pierce and Addison Pierce each made 10. Michael Dola punted 10 times for an average of 31.6 yards, with four of them landing inside the 20.
For the Cardinals, Warren finished 13 of 22 for 163 yards passing. Kyle Gibson led all rushers with 114 yards on the ground on 25 carries.
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