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Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Football Wins Third in a Row, 28-9 Over Hamilton

Author: Neil Onsdorff Staff Writer

Youngman Field is easily the preeminent venue for Division III football in the country! The three-tiered Green Mountains to the east, the scenic golf course, the shadow of the stands, the always interesting rants, raves and cheers for both teams echoing throughout the same-side seating and the rallying of the student body strategically placed on the surrounding hills and grassy knolls all make for a fantastic place to play football. For the nine seniors who have been experiencing the home field advantage for the past four years, this past weekend's game was their last opportunity to soak up the unforgettable aura that is playing football at Middlebury College.

The Panthers entered Saturday's contest riding high on a two game winning streak and looked to extend it one further against the winless but always-dangerous Hamilton Continentals squad that in previous years has played the Panthers tough and close. With the annual "Rocking Chair" —an old dilapitaded rocking chair that is traded between Hamilton and Middlebury and goes to the winner of the game — at stake once again, the sense at kickoff was one of excitement and determination, and nobody was going to take this game halfheartedly.

Fortunately for Middlebury, and for those of you who no longer have any fingernails left after last week's battle against Trinity, the Panthers orchestrated all aspects of Saturday's contest. This was the first time this season that Middlebury was able to experience a coming together on both sides of the ball. In games past, a fumbled punt or some other miscue by the Panthers would spell disaster. But not in this game. Instead of giving up points after giving up the ball, the Panthers were able to hold the Hamilton offense after their early punt return fumble. One could sense that the game would be under Panther control.

After some first quarter jitters, the defense was able to find its game plan, making Hamilton's offense look as if they were the marching band, not a team capable of posing a serious threat. The defense, lead by co-captain defensive end Daryl Tracy '02, defensive tackle Ian Hanna '02 and linebacker Richard Decembrele '05, looked like puppeteers as they stopped Hamilton 23 times for a loss and held them to a puny 191 total yards. On this day, the Panthers were playing with such force and hitting with such strength that anybody who was foolish enough to get in their way was going to feel their wrath — referees included. (The game was played minus one official who unfortunately was knocked silly in the second quarter.)

On the flip side of the ball, the offense was in high gear all day. Once again fullback Christopher Davis '03 delivered ferocious blocks, enabling quarterback Scott Roberts '02 and wide receiver Denver Smith '03 to shine like superstars. Roberts, who is now the second-ranked passer in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), had himself a near error-free day, throwing for 204 yards and one touchdown in only three quarters of play. Smith gracefully hauled in seven catches for 107 yards, adding to his Middlebury receiving records. Coach Ritter also had another dazzling performance from a young but extremely talented offensive gun, wide receiver Mike Murray '05, who on only three catches was able to rack up 65 yards and, with some Barry Sanders type moves, score one touchdown.

With such a masterful football performance on the field, everybody who was able to suit up was allowed to play. Even those young players who were not able to perform this season because of all the early season injuries were able to experience what it is like to play at the varsity level. From start to finish, this game was an extraordinary way for the seniors to say goodbye to their loyal fans — a day that they should remember for years to come.