Barr '21 makes 14 tackles in football setback at Middlebury

Jeremy Barr '21 (Josh McKee photo)
Jeremy Barr '21 (Josh McKee photo)

Middlebury College's Alex Maldjian ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter and the Panthers' defense made it stand up in their 14-7 NESCAC win against the Hamilton College Continentals at Middlebury's Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton (4-4 NESCAC) was limited to 222 yards of offense and nine first downs. The Continentals' defense intercepted three passes, recovered a Panthers fumble and sacked the quarterback four times. Hamilton and Middlebury were playing in the Old Rocking Chair Classic for the 40th time.

The Continentals return home to Steuben Field on Saturday, Nov. 9 when they play Bates College (1-7) in the season finale. Hamilton will honor its seniors before the game.

The Panthers (8-0) won by seven points or less for the fifth time in 2019. Middlebury, which received votes in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division III Top 25 poll, racked up 208 yards rushing.

David Kagan '20 ran for 82 yards and a touchdown for the Continentals. Kagan is fifth in the NESCAC with 74.3 yards rushing per game and tied for second with eight rushing touchdowns. Will Budington '21 had a team-high 29 yards receiving.

Hamilton's Kenny Gray '20 was 10 of 28 passing for 101 yards. Gray, who became the team's punter in Week 5, averaged 41.0 yards on 13 punts with a long of 65 yards. He leads the conference with an average of 39.9 yards per punt and 15 of his 31 kicks have landed inside the opponents' 20.

The Continentals finished plus-3 in turnover margin. Jeremy Barr '21 was credited with a career-high 14 tackles including 10 solo stops. James Ball '21 chipped in a career-best 12 tackles with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Ball leads the team with four sacks. Carmine Bruno '20 added 11 tackles and is fifth in the conference with 7.9 per game. Alex Ganter '20, Mike Friedman '21 and Luca Katz '21 finished with a half-sack each. Katz, Ian Esliker '21 and Christian Snell '22 had the interceptions. Esliker is tied for the NESCAC lead with four picks while Katz had the first of his Hamilton career and Snell registered his third.

Maldjian rushed for 145 yards on 35 carries for the Panthers. Will Jernigan started at quarterback and was 6 of 9 passing for 77 yards. Ben Tauber relieved Jernigan midway through the second quarter and was 4 of 15 for just 35 yards. Pete Huggins led Middlebury with seven tackles including a sack and recovered a fumble. Jack Pistorius, Martin Williams and Anson Clough had one sack each, and Jonathan Hobart forced a fumble.

The Panthers took the lead on their first drive after a Continentals punt and 3-yard return gave them the ball at their own 40. Three running plays gained 18 yards and back-to-back completions to Frank Cosolito gained 40 more and put Middlebury at the Hamilton 2. Maldjian scored from there and it was 6-0 with 11:47 left in the quarter.

Midway through the quarter, a 40-yard punt by Gray was muffed and the Continentals' Bryce Phillips '20 fell on the loose ball at the Panthers 44. Hamilton only gained a yard and had to punt again.

On the fourth play of Middlebury's next drive, a Jernigan pass was tipped and Katz came up with it at the Panthers 26-yard line. Kagan rumbled for 11 yards on first down and took the handoff from Gray again on the next play. Kagan ran off left tackle and wasn't touched after he blasted through the line of scrimmage. The 15-yard scoring jaunt and PAT by Sam Thoreen '22 tied the score at 7-7 with 3:32 remaining in the first.

It took Middlebury just 2:06 to regain its seven-point lead. A seven-play, 74-yard drive was capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by Maldjian with 1:17 to go in the opening quarter. A 25-yard catch by Maxim Bochman to the Continentals 37 was a big play in the drive.

Nobody found the end zone again during the final 46 minutes but they had chances. Hamilton drove to the Panthers 31 early in the second quarter and then Gray completed a pass to Mark Howrigan '23 at the 20, but Hobart stripped the ball and Huggins recovered at his own 17.

Midway through the third quarter, the Continentals lined up to punt from their own 47. Instead the snap went directly to Kagan who sprinted down to around the Middlebury 20 where he was knocked out-of-bounds, but the big gain was wiped out by an offensive holding penalty. Hamilton didn't make it into the Panthers end of the field again.