Middlebury, Vt. - The visiting Trinity College Bantams took their first loss since 2011, 27-24, against the Middlebury College Panthers in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) football action this afternoon on Youngman Field. Trinity, which was driving at the end of the game but had its final pass intercepted in the Panther end zone as time expired, snaps a 14-game winning streak dated back to a 35-28 setback at Amherst on November 5, 2011. Trinity and Middlebury are now tied with Amherst, the Bantams' opponent next weekend, for second place behind 6-0 Wesleyan in the conference standings with two games to play.
Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote found Matthew Minno over the middle for a 10-yard strike to put his team on top, 7-0, early. On their next series, the Panthers extended their drive when a bad snap on a punt led to a 23-yard rush for a first down by punter Michael Dola. Middlebury proceeded to march to the Trinity seven, but a 24-yard field goal attempt from Dola was wide left. Trinity took advantage of a Middebury turnover in the second quarter, after senior S Brendan Bader (Brookfield, Conn.) picked off a pass at the Panther 35-yard line and returned it to 20 yards. Three plays later, senior RB Ben Crick (Middlebury, Conn.) scored with a four-yard rush to the right corner to knot the game at 7-7.
Foote was again picked off on the Panthers' ensuing possession, as junior S Casey Tanner (Wellesley, Mass.) returned the ball 27 yards to the Middlebury 35-yard line. Trinity capitalized with a 37-yard field goal from freshman Ben Rosenblatt (Newton Center, Mass.). Middlebury answered with an 11-play, 71-yard drive to take a 14-10 lead with 5:31 left in the half. Foote found tight end William Sadik-Khan three times on the drive for 32 yards, including a 17-yard scoring strike.
The Bantams came right back, scoring on their next possession to regain the lead. The methodical drive last 12 plays and covered 75 yards over a span of 4:46. The big play was a 27-yard connection from freshman QB Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.) to junior WR Chris Ragone (Sarasota, Calif.), leaving the ball at the Middlebury 15-yard line. Crick found pay dirt on the next play, scoring from 15-yards out to put his team up 17-14 with just 38 seconds left in the half.
Middlebury tied the game in the third quarter when Dola connected from 28 yards out to make it a 17-17 game. Dola struck again early in the fourth quarter, this time from 37 yards away to put his team on top, 20-17. Trinity regained the lead with an 85-yard drive that elapsed just 2:54 off the clock on seven plays in the fourth quarter. Puzzo hit Ragone for 34 yards before connecting once again, this time from 39 yards out for the touchdown. Trinity led, 24-20, with 4:57 remaining, and Middlebury moved the ball to the Trinity 30-yard line on its next possession before turning the ball over on downs on a pass break-up by junior CB Brian Dones (Philadelphia, Pa.).
The Panther defense force Trinity to punt after three plays, giving them the ball on their own 25-yard line with 2:21 left to play. A Bantam penalty moved the ball 15 yards down the field before Foote completed three straight passes. The third of the three was a 40-yard connection with Brendan Rankowitz, who was streaking down the left sideline. The Panthers were left with a first and goal situation from the Trinity seven, facing the same situation three plays later. On the fourth and one play, Foote found Minno over the middle, rifling a pass into the receivers' hands through heavy traffic.
Trailing, 27-24, Trinity had the ball on their own 25-yard line with 1:12 remaining and one timeout. Puzzo chipped away at the Panther defense, completing several short passes while leading his team down the field. He rushed the ball three times for 23 yards, with a 12-yard strike to sophomore WR Ian Dugger (West Hartford, Conn.) and an eight-yard completion to senior captain RB Evan Bunker (Topsfield, Mass.) to put the ball at the Middlebury 33-yard line. On the final play of the game, Puzzo threw a long ball to the left corner at the goal line, but Nate Leedy picked it off to end the game.
Puzzo finished 20-33 for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while rushing 18 times for 58 yards. Crick led the ground game with a pair of touchdown on 14 carries for 62 yards. Bunker caught five passes for 47 yards while gaining 28 on the ground, while Ragone made three receptions for 100 yards with a touchdown. Junior S Mike Mancini (Rocky Hill, Conn.) led the defense with seven tackles, while junior DE Nathan Cyr (Kingston, N.H.) made six, 1.5 for lost yardage. The Trinity defense finished the game with 14 pass break-ups. Foote finished the contest 29 of 64 for 310 yards with three touchdown passes. With Middlebury's top two rushers out, Ryan Hislop filled in admirably, carrying the ball 19 times for 69 yards. Minno caught nine passes for 110 yards with two touchdowns, while Rankowitz (100 yards) and Sadik-Kahn (60 yards) each caught seven balls. Matthew Benedict had a huge day defensively, making 19 tackles, 10 solo and one for lost yardage. Tim Patricia finished with 11 stops, while Addison Pierce had 10 tackles, 2.5 for lost yardage.