Bierman '21 runs for two touchdowns in football loss at Middlebury

Mitch Bierman '21 (Josh McKee photo)
Mitch Bierman '21 (Josh McKee photo)

Middlebury College scored the first 41 points and the Panthers went on to a 41-20 NESCAC football win against the Hamilton College Continentals on Middlebury's Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

This was the 38th playing of the Old Rocking Chair Classic. The teams have been playing for the Old Rocking Chair traveling trophy every year since 1980. The chair is a symbol of the friendly rivalry between the two schools. Hamilton's William M. "Mac" Bristol III '43 and Middlebury's John M. "Jack" Kirk '39 are credited with starting the tradition, dedicating the chair at a pre-game ceremony on Oct. 25, 1980.

Hamilton (2-6 NESCAC) outgained the Panthers with 373 yards of total offense to Middlebury's 350, but the Continentals had four turnovers and were flagged 10 times for 80 yards. Hamilton scored all 20 of its points in the fourth quarter.

Sam Foley '21 was 22 of 40 passing for 276 yards with one touchdown and one interception in his first collegiate start at quarterback. Joe Schmidt '20 and Connor Cates '21 were Foley's favorite targets. Schmidt caught 11 passes for 129 yards and tied a program record with his ninth touchdown reception this year. Schmidt set another team single-season mark with 740 receiving yards. Cates, in just his fourth game with the Continentals, had six catches for 97 yards. Mitch Bierman '21 ran for two touchdowns and Marcus Gutierrez '18 racked up 70 rushing yards on just 14 carries. Bierman is tied for fourth in the NESCAC with five touchdowns on the ground.

Cole Burchill '19 paced the Hamilton defense with 11 tackles and Tyler Hudson '19 was credited with eight. Hudson is second in the conference with 10.3 tackles per game and Burchill is fifth with 8.6. Alex Ganter '20 had two of the Continentals' five sacks, Mike Friedman '19 chipped in 1.5 and Sean Tolton '19 added one. Sam Bowen '20 recorded his second interception at Hamilton.

Special teams was a highlight for the Continentals. Sam Robinson '20 averaged 22.8 yards on his four punt returns, including one he brought back 51 yards. Billy Wagner '20 averaged 48.2 yards on his six punts and had a career long of 76 yards.

Jack Meservy was 11 of 16 passing for 212 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in his second career start for the Panthers (6-2). Jimmy Martinez, who finished with 117 yards on just three receptions, caught two of Meservy's touchdown passes. Wesley Becton returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown and ended up with seven tackles. John Jackson led Middlebury with nine stops, including a sack, forced a fumble and recovered another. Kevin Maxwell forced a pair of fumbles and Kevin Hartley picked off a pass at his own 2-yard line.

The Panthers scored on the second play from scrimmage as Meservy and Martinez hooked up for a 65-yard touchdown. Middlebury forced and recovered a fumble at the Hamilton 37 on the Continentals' first play. Two plays later, Martinez caught a 22-yard scoring toss, and the Panthers led 14-0 just 88 seconds into the first quarter.

Hamilton went three-and-out and Middlebury drove to the Continental 31-yard line before Bowen intercepted Meservy at his own 17. The Panthers forced another three-and-out and they started their drive with great field position at the Hamilton 33 after a short punt. On the fourth play of the drive, Peter Scibilia scored on a 4-yard pass from Meservy.

Hartley intercepted a long pass at his own 2-yard line on the Continentals' next drive and Middlebury led 20-0 after one quarter. Hamilton's first drive of the second quarter stalled at the Panther 21 where the Continentals turned the ball over on downs. Hamilton's next two possessions produced another three-and-out and the fumble return for a touchdown by Becton with 6:16 left in the quarter.

Middlebury recovered another fumble by the Continentals on the next play from scrimmage, and Meservy found Frank Cosolito for a 36-yard touchdown pass on third-and-22 three plays later. Hamilton turned the ball over on downs at the Middlebury 33 with 1:49 remaining in the half. The Panthers drove 67 yards in seven plays, capped by Will Jernigan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Conrado Banky with 3 seconds to go. Middlebury took a 41-0 cushion into the locker room.

All four third quarter drives ended with punts, but on the second play of the fourth quarter Bierman scored on an 8-yard run and the Continentals were on the scoreboard. Bierman closed out a six-play, 66-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on Hamilton's next possession, and it was 41-12 with 9:55 left.

The next three drives ended with punts but Robinson gave the Continentals a short field when he returned one 30 yards to the Panther 22. Foley completed a 16-yard pass to Schmidt and then found Schmidt in the end zone for a 6-yard score. Foley closed out the scoring on a two-point conversion toss to David Kagan '20 with 2:29 remaining.

Hamilton hosts 2-6 Bates College for the 2017 finale on Saturday, Nov. 11 at noon.