Park '22 runs for two touchdowns in football loss to Middlebury

Joe Park '22 (Josh McKee photo)
Joe Park '22 (Josh McKee photo)
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Middlebury College scored two touchdowns in the first six minutes of the first quarter and the Panthers never trailed in a 35-17 NESCAC win against the Hamilton College Continentals on another cold, blustery Saturday afternoon at Hamilton's Steuben Field.

Saturday's game was the 39th playing of the Old Rocking Chair Classic and the 61st meeting overall between Middlebury and the Continentals. The two teams have played each other every year since 1966.

Hamilton (2-6 NESCAC) scored all 17 of its points in the second quarter. The Continentals gained 351 yards of total offense but were flagged 13 times for 142 yards.

Hamilton's Joe Park '22 led all rushers with 80 yards and he doubled his season touchdown total with two scores. Kenny Gray '20 was 19 of 40 passing for 180 yards with two interceptions and ran for 54 yards. Joe Schmidt '20 boasted 62 receiving yards and led all players with eight catches.

Cole Burchill '19 paced the Continentals' defense with 11 tackles and Sean Tolton '19 had two tackles for a loss. Justin Leigh '20 returned an interception 36 yards and Colby Jones '19 brought one back 21 yards. Jones has nine career picks at Hamilton and Leigh has three.

Will Jernigan completed 21 of 36 passes for 246 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions and added 32 yards on the ground for the Panthers (5-3). Conrado Banky finished with 97 yards receiving and Frank Cosolito had two touchdown grabs.

Pete Huggins topped the Middlebury defense with seven tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Ian Blow picked off a pass, Martin Williams recorded the only sack of the afternoon, and Elijah Thiam recovered a fumble.

The Panthers grabbed a 7-0 lead on their second possession when Banky scored on a 49-yard pass from Jernigan with 10:12 left in the first quarter. The Continentals fumbled on their next offensive play after Gray tried to hand off to David Kagan '20 and Middlebury recovered at the Hamilton 19. Four plays later on third-and-goal from the 11, Jernigan threw a short pass to the tight end Cosolito who broke two tackles inside the 5 and bulled his way into the end zone. Carter Massengill added the extra point and it was 14-0 with 9:06 remaining.

The Continentals cut their deficit in half on the second play of the second quarter. A 6-yard run by Park capped an 85-yard drive that consisted of five rushing plays. Gray started the drive with a 46-yard scramble to the Panthers' 39 and Park accounted for the last 39 yards.

Middlebury restored its 14-point lead on a 29-yard touchdown catch by Cosolito again on third down with 3:56 to go in the half. The drive was aided by a Hamilton 15-yard personal foul penalty.

The Continentals pulled within four points by scoring on their last two possessions of the quarter. The Panthers tried an onside kick that Mike Cairns '22 recovered and gave Hamilton great field position at the Middlebury 35. On fourth-and-1 from the 4, Park took the direct snap in the wildcat formation and dove over the goal line with 1:30 left. The Continentals got the ball back with 34 seconds left after Leigh returned an interception to the Panthers 40. Gray completed two passes to Kagan for 27 yards and Sam Thoreen '22 nailed a 30-yard field goal to pull Hamilton within 21-17 as time ran out. Thoreen is 4-for-6 on field goal attempts and has made all but one of his 22 PATs this year.

Middlebury pulled away in the second half on a 7-yard touchdown pass to Peter Scibilia early in the third quarter and a 9-yard run by Scibilia with 1:30 remaining in the fourth. Scibilia's rushing touchdown wrapped up a 16-play, 88-yard march that ran more than eight minutes off the clock. The last 10 plays were all rushing attempts.

The Continentals' deepest penetration into the Panthers' side of the field in the second half was the 17-yard line and that didn't happen until the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

Hamilton travels to Lewiston, Maine, for the 2018 season finale at winless Bates College on Saturday, Nov. 10 at noon.