Panther football starts with narrow win

MIDDLEBURY — The host Middlebury College football team on Saturday held off a Wesleyan rally to win, 30-27, in the season opener for both teams. Middlebury earned its sixth win in its past seven games against Wesleyan and returns to action at Bowdoin this Saturday.
Middlebury scored on its opening drive when quarterback Jared Lebowitz hit tight end Frank Cosolito on a 70-yard catch-and-run play.
Wesleyan took a 7-6 lead when QB Mark Piccirillo connected with Mike Breuler for a 52-yard touchdown.
Jimmy Martinez returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 Panther lead.
The Panthers added to their lead late in the first quarter with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that 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 20-13 at the half.
Middlebury’s Carter Massengill hit a 20-yard field goal to make it 23-13 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
A 25-yard touchdown pass from Lebowitz to Maxim Bochman gave Middlebury a 30-13 lead with 9:17 remaining in the game; Bochman dodged two defenders after his reception. Conrado Banky pulled in a 32-yard reception on the drive.
Wesleyan then moved 84 yards on six plays in just 2:04 to make it 30-20 with 7:07 left to play. Dario Highsmith and Ryan Earle each caught 22-yard passes before Hallvard Lundevall snagged a seven-yard TD pass.
Elias Camacho then recovered an onside kick to give the Cardinals the ball at their own 47. That recovery set up a TD with 3:15 remaining, a three-yard reception by Breuler.
Banky handled the next onside kickoff attempt for the Panthers. The Cardinals held and got the ball back on their own 39, but Middlebury’s Bobby Ritter picked off a pass on the first play of the drive, returning it to the Wesleyan 14.
The Panthers turned the ball over on downs at the Cardinals’ 6-yard line with 56 seconds to go. Wesleyan could only reach its 42 before time expired.
Lebowitz completed 22 of 44 passes for 352 yards. Bochman caught seven passes for 114 yards, Banky had five catches for 73 yards, and Martinez caught five balls for 66 yards.
Panther 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 of 53 passes for Wesleyan for 432 yards. Breuler led all receivers with 15 receptions for 178 yards. Wesleyan outgained Middlebury 451-394 and held a 35:18 to 24:42 advantage in time of possession.

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