Florida Tech Dominates Stetson in Season Opener, 54-12
Redshirt freshman Mark Cato throws for four touchdowns and runs for two more in first career start
DELAND, Fla. (Football) – The second season of Florida Tech Football could not have started any better than a 54-12 win over Stetson (1-1) Saturday night at Spec Martin Stadium.
The Panthers scored four touchdowns and tacked on a field goal in their first five possessions. By the time the first quarter horn sounded, the Hatters were already trailing 30-0.
Redshirt freshman Mark Cato put on a show in his first collegiate start. He connected with Xavier Milton for a 69-yard touchdown on his first passing attempt. That completion was longer than any passing touchdown in the team’s inaugural season last year. Cato went on to run for two scores and threw for another touchdown in the game’s first 15 minutes.
He tacked on two more passing touchdowns to Aaron George in the second and third quarters.
“Four touchdown passes and two touchdown runs,” head coach Steve Englehart said about Cato. “He would have had 100 yards rushing, but there were some miscues in the backfield with some exchanges that resulted in him having quite a few plays for negative yards. … We spread the ball around to a bunch of wide receivers and running backs. That’s going to be huge as we get later into the season.”
Along with his six total touchdowns, Cato finished 7-of-15 for 191 passing yards. He ran the ball 19 times for 63 total yards.
He was not the only story for the Panthers. Milton totaled two touchdowns and 114 receiving yards on just three catches. Trevor Sand ran for 116 yards on a mere nine carries. Kenrick Walters Jr. averaged 9.8 yards on five carries. Those two running backs helped FIT’s rushing attack mount 278 yards on the Hatters’ defense.
The Panther defense was as Englehart put it ‘stifling.’ The unit held Stetson without a first down until 1:06 remained in the first quarter. After that point, the Hatters only totaled two first downs in the second quarter.
For the game, Stetson was held to just 172 total yards, 2-of-15 on third down conversions and 10 first downs the entire game.
“Our defense played extremely well,” Englehart said. “We flew to the ball and were fast. Our guys seemed energized and we had a great game plan. When you have DBs like Leo (Alba), Manny (Abad) and (Keith) Lovett that can cover people on the edge, you can stack the box a little more to stop the run.
“With the downpour we were getting in the first quarter, we were able to get three and outs on them. Really, it was a game of the first quarter. We got a few explosive plays. We had a big punt return by Tyler Bass and the punt block Aaron George had. All three phases did it in the first quarter. Last year, I don’t think we had one time where all three phases played well and that’s what we had tonight.”
FIT’s special teams stepped up in a big way. Bass had a 43-yard punt return, which led to a 36-yard field goal by Brion Ashley to make it 16-0.
Ashley then connected on a squib kick that a Stetson player had difficulty handling. Jake Holsinger recovered the fumble and the Panthers took over on Stetson’s 33-yard line. That set up Cato’s second touchdown pass to Milton, this time for 33 yards on the first and only play of the drive.
As if it couldn’t get any worse for Stetson, George blocked Eric Fogle’s punt following a three-and-out. Abad recovered it at Stetson’s 39-yard line. It led to Cato’s second rushing touchdown with 4:29 to play in the first quarter.
Newcomer Jason Kollock and last year’s GSC Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year Chris Stapleton led the Panthers with nine tackles each. Anthony Hicks registered the team’s lone sack.
The Panthers will return to Melbourne to open their home schedule on Saturday at 6 p.m. against Ave Maria at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium.
Season and individual game tickets remain for FIT’s five-game home schedule. Tickets are available by calling 321-674-6228 or stopping by the Clemente Center Ticket Office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Live video and stats will be available for Saturday’s home opener at FloridaTechSports.com/live. Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will call the game on the new Official Radio Partner of the Panthers, WFIT 89.5 FM. The feed will also be available by clicking on the ‘Listen Live’ button at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.
I just uploaded a video of our football team singing the fight song for the first time following tonight’s win. We’ll look to sing the fight song after we win moving forward. That’ll be a new tradition.
After the game, in what will be a new tradition after Panter victories, the team sang its fight song. You can find video of the rendition here.
Box Score: http://www.floridatechsports.com/media/2014-15/football/stats/fit01.htm
2014 Schedule: http://www.floridatechsports.com/football/schedule/