Hartford, Conn. — After battling from behind for nearly the entire game, the Trinity College football program dropped its second contest of the season Saturday afternoon, falling 32-27 at Middlebury. The Panthers (3-0) absorbed a thunderous comeback attempt from the Bantams (1-2), extinguishing the threat by recovering a Trinity onside kick with just over a minute remaining.
After surrendering a field goal in Middlebury’s first offensive possession, neither team found the back of the end zone through the opening 12 minutes. A three-and-out to start the second quarter set up a 45-yard punt return from Middlebury’s Wyllis McKissick (Littleton, Colo.). Just four plays and 36 yards later, the Panthers added seven points to its lead thanks to a four-yard Will Jernigan (Decatur, Ga.) quarterback keeper.
Trinity’s offense struggled in the next possession, and it resulted in another scoring play for the Panthers. Facing 4th and four, a snap from the Bantam 31-yard line was overshot; Trinity recovered in its own end zone, giving Middlebury a safety and a 12-0 cushion.
With seven minutes left in the first half, Trinity struck back with two scoring drives. Sophomore Seamus Lambert led the offense on a six play, 83-yard touchdown drive, highlighted with a 56-yard throw-and-catch to senior wideout Joe Samuelman (North Andover, Mass.) and a four-yard Lambert keeper to cut the deficit to 12-7. The Bantam defense forced a three-and-out in Middlebury’s ensuing possession, and the visitors marched once more with 3:08 left on the clock. The big play in Trinity’s final drive of the half came on third-and-ten, with Lambert hooking up with junior Jonathan Girard (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) for a 35-yard reception. Lambert used his wheels once more after a 12-yard completion to Girard, running the ball in from a yard out to give the Bantams a 14-12 lead into halftime.
The visitors started with the ball in the second half, but Middlebury’s defense made a game-changing play in the first Bantam drive of the half. After three Trinity penalties backed the offense up deep in its own end, Lambert — facing second and 28 — was intercepted by senior Kevin Hartley (Bernardsville, N.J.), who returned it 25 yards to the house to give the Panthers a 19-14 lead.
Trinity mishandled another punt one drive later, and Middlebury capitalized with a field goal to push the lead to eight points. The Bantams responded, however, with a touchdown late in the third quarter. Lambert hooked up with sophomore DeVante Reid (White Plains, N.Y.) for 15 yards, and sophomore Draquan Jones (Miami, Fla.) capped off the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to make the score 22-20.
A Middlebury field goal started the fourth quarter, and with a five-point lead, found the back of the end zone in its following possession. Jernigan began the drive with a 62-yard pass to senior Maxwell Rye (Longmeadow, Mass.), and capped it with a 20-yard completion to senior Aiden Power (Culver, Ind.) to give the hosts a 32-20 lead.
The Bantams moved the ball late in the fourth quarter, but with 2:02 remaining, a crucial interception gave Middlebury the ball back with a chance to end the game. Trinity’s defense held its ground, however, forcing Middlebury to punt.
With less than two minutes left in the fourth, junior Colin Beaulieu returned the Panther punt 32 yards, setting up the Bantam offense on the Middlebury 16-yard line. Lambert picked up 13 yards on the ground before Jones pounded it in from three yards out, making it a one-possession game. With the game on the line, Trinity couldn’t recover its onside kick attempt, and the Panthers ran out the clock, picking up its third win of the season while knocking the Bantams down to 1-2.
Lambert finished 20-32, throwing for 333 yards and four interceptions while picking up 80 yards on the ground. Jones rushed for 68 yards on 16 carries, and Girard finished with a game-high 102 yards on six completions. Reid finished with 84 yards on seven receptions, and senior Koby Schofer (Northbridge, Mass.) finished with 79 yards with five receptions.
Trinity finished with 422 yards of total offense, holding Middlebury to just 332 yards. Junior Matt McCarthy (North Reading, Mass.) and sophomore Brian Casagrande (Madison, Conn.) led the team with 10 tackles apiece in the setback.
The Middlebury defense was stout, turning over the Bantams four times, forcing a safety, and sacking Lambert on five separate occasions.
Trinity will look to bounce back from the loss next Saturday, hosting Hamilton at 1 p.m.