Football Friday: Revisiting Middlebury’s Perfect 2019 Season

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Middlebury College quarterback Will Jernigan guided the Panthers to its third perfect season in program history in 2019. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Friday, everyone.

And welcome to our first of many ‘Football Friday’ posts, which will revisit (and yes, highlight, too) previous campaigns, stories, and games we have covered since our blog began pressing the publish button back in May 2009.

Today, we’re revisiting last year’s perfect season by the Middlebury College football team, which saw the Panthers win nine games, as well as capture the 2019 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title.

The 2019 NESCAC crown was the team’s first outright title since 2007. It was also the program’s fourth championship – they shared the crown in 2000 and 2013.

Middlebury’s run toward its first conference crown in nearly a decade featured many twists and turns, including an epic double-overtime win over Amherst College (34-31), along with two hard-fought season-ending victories against Hamilton College (14-7) and Tufts University (31-24). 

While the team’s three-point win over the Mammoths may have been their most thrilling victory of the 2019 season, they also scored some dramatic (and last second) victories against Colby College (27-26) and Williams College (17-13).

The one-point win over the Mules was something I discussed with Colby’s head coach Jack Cosgrove earlier this summer – he told me it “would have been a great win for (his) program.”

Middlebury, which entered the game riding a four-game winning streak, was held to just seven points in the final frame while the visitors produced 13 points on two touchdowns – they almost finished the frame with 16 points, but a game-ending 29-yard field goal sailed wide of the goalposts.

“Yeah, we were in a football game,” Cosgrove said of his team’s heartbreaking defeat to the Panthers.

But beyond their epic and dramatic finishes, Middlebury’s most impressive performance of the 2019 season occurred one week after their win over Colby when they defeated Wesleyan University in a battle of undefeated teams.

Middlebury beat Wesleyan, 45-21 while finishing the game with 529 yards of total offense. Will Jernigan, who was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year, concluded the highly anticipated matchup with four touchdown passes, while halfback Alex Maldjian rushed for a game-high 95 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.

Jack Pistorius led the Panthers defense with 10 total tackles, including two sacks for a loss of 11 yards while Nick Leone finished with four total stops, which included three tackles for a loss of 12 yards.

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Middlebury College’s Will Jernigan was named the 2019 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

Middlebury would continue its winning ways over the next three weeks to cap its perfect season, but as noted above, their final two victories over Hamilton and Tufts were certainly not easy.

The Continentals of Hamilton limited the Panthers to their fewest points in a single contest (14) – they also kept Middlebury off the scoreboard for three-straight quarters.

Against the Jumbos, Middlebury needed its defense to fend off a late rally by Tufts, which came within one touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. The Panthers recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff to not only seal the win but cap its magical season with a perfect season.

Unfortunately, the Panthers won’t have a chance to defend their conference crown this fall due to the conference canceling competition because of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but you can bet that Middlebury would have been ready to go toe-to-toe with its conference foes, including both Wesleyan and Williams College, which finished their respective campaigns with identical 8-1 records.

The 2019 NESCAC football season was exciting, but the wait for its next kickoff – not just Middlebury’s, but all 10 teams – will certainly be worth it.

D3 Football Preseason: Teams On The Rise

D3 Teams On The Rise

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

The first day of August usually means one thing: football has officially returned.

We’re a few weeks away from starting up a brand new college football season – are you excited? I am, which is why I am very excited to begin our preseason football coverage with ‘Teams on the Rise’ in New England Division III.

Let me (and Noontime Sports) know if you agree, disagree or think we left a squad out by posting a comment below!


Anna Maria College: Year number three could be a turning point for coach Dan Mulrooney and his AMCATs, who have high aspirations heading into the 2019 season. With a slew of talent back from last year, as well as a wide-open conference race, one should certainly keep an eye on this squad, which faces some serious challenges next month with games against RPI and Union College. Additionally, a home date with Nichols College will be one to keep an eye on, as well.

Colby College: The Mules are my team to watch in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) this fall. Second-year coach Jack Cosgrove should be able to lead his squad to at least four, possibly five wins this season. Colby finished 3-6 last season – it was the most wins they have recorded since finishing 3-5 in 2016 and 4-4 in 2013.

Dean College: With just two players gone to graduation, these Bulldogs should be equipped (and prepared) to challenge Maritime (N.Y.) for the top spot in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC). Coach Steve Tirrell‘s squad has improved each season since becoming a full-time Division III member in 2017.

Middlebury College: The Panthers will once again be in the middle of the NESCAC pack this fall – the Blue and White graduated 17 student-athletes from their 2018 squad, but should return some key pieces from last season. Middlebury finished 5-4 last season after posting six or seven wins in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and could certainly provide some challenges to a few conference early season favorites, including Amherst CollegeTrinity College, and Williams College.

Nichols College: Perhaps this is the year the Bison take that ‘next step’ and challenge Endicott College, Husson University, Salve Regina and Western New England for the top spot in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC). The Bison finished 5-5 last season and seem to have generated some serious momentum this offseason, which should bode well for coach Dale Olmsted‘s squad.

Norwich University: Could the Cadets challenge Springfield College and others for the top spot in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)? I think so. Norwich returns some impressive talent on both sides of the ball, which will make this team hard to beat. I have high hopes for the Cadets, who will attempt to match their 2014 squad, which finished with seven wins.

University of New England: The Nor’easters appeared to get stronger as the 2018 season progressed. Similar to Nichols, they face the daunting task of taking down four solid teams to secure the top spot, but I think UNE should certainly improve on their initial season as a varsity program and finish 2019 with at least three or four wins.


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