Kickoff between Panthers and Bears
Set for 2 p.m. ET at Moretz Stadium
MELBOURNE, Fla. – Florida Tech battles Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division II Football Playoffs. Kickoff between the Panthers and Bears is set for 2 p.m. ET at Moretz Stadium in Hickory, N.C.
The Crimson & Gray were announced as the No. 6 seed in Super Region 2 during Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show. LR was given the nod at No. 3 after receiving the automatic bid for winning the South Atlantic Conference title this season.
This will be the first-ever meeting between Florida Tech and Lenoir-Rhyne.
Under head coach Steve Englehart, the Panthers are 13-11 when playing an opponent for the first time. In 2018, Englehart has led Florida Tech to a 2-0 record in such games, including road wins over Benedict, 33-14, and Wingate, 26-23, on the road.
The winner of Saturday’s matchup will take on the winner of the West Georgia vs. Wingate game. Should Wingate pull the upset, the winner of Saturday’s game will host the Bulldogs. A West Georgia win would secure a Second Round home game for the Wolves.
MEET THE BEARS
Lenoir-Rhyne is the Panthers’ opponent for their second-ever NCAA Playoff appearance. The Bears won the 2018 South Atlantic Conference Championship with a 7-0 record in league play this season despite being picked sixth in the conference’s preseason coaches’ poll. It was the third perfect SAC season in program history.
Drew Cronic is the head coach of the Bears. He is in his first season at Lenoir-Rhyne and is the 22nd head football coach in program history. He was named the 2018 SAC Coach of the Year after leading the Bears to a 10-1 record.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP
Florida Tech finished tied for third in the Gulf South Conference this season with a 5-3 record. The Panthers are averaging 29.4 points and 366.3 yards of total offense per game. The Crimson & Gray led the GSC in turnover margin (0.82) and defensive touchdowns (6), while also limiting opponents to 21.4 points and 310.5 yards per game.
Junior quarterback Trent Chmelik ranks second in the GSC with 2,452 passing yards and a completion percentage of 62.0 to go along with 19 touchdowns.
Seniors Romell Guerrier and Antwuan Haynes have also been the driving force behind the Panther offense this season. Guerrier, a first team All-GSC selection, led the league in five receiving categories, including most receptions (56), yards (946), touchdowns (12), yards per game (86.0) and receptions per game (5.1). Haynes, who earned second team honors, racked up 807 rushing yards and averaged 92.9 all-purpose per game this season.
FT’s defense is led by senior linebacker J.T. Hassell, who was recently honored as a first team All-GSC selection and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in tackles (105), solo tackles (69), and fumbles (3). Adonis Davis made his third consecutive appearance on the All-GSC First Team following a year in which he led the GSC in tackles for loss (16), sacks (7) and forced fumbles (3), while also making 68 tackles, including 44 of the solo variety.
Lenoir-Rhyne’s high-powered offense ranks seventh in Division II in scoring offense at 44.5 points per game and ranks fourth nationally in rushing offense at 293.4 yards per game. The Bears rank No. 1 in the SAC in rushing yards allowed per game at 108.5 and turnovers forced at 32. LR also tops the league with 38 sacks and is giving up just 20.5 points per game.
Lenoir-Rhyne has seven players with at least 250 rushing yards this, led by Ameen Stevens’ 600 yards and nine touchdowns. Stevens is one of seven Bears with two or more rushing touchdowns.
Bears quarterback Grayson Willingham has thrown for 1,709 passing yards and 20 touchdowns on just 90 completions. T.J. Smith is Willingham’s go-to target this year as the wide receiver has 42 catches for 855 yards and 10 touchdowns. LR’s next top wideout, Demarius Hampton, has 17 receptions for 254 yards.
Lenoir-Rhyne placed seven on the All-SAC teams in 2018. Kyle Dugger, Dan Louba and Jason Poe were first team All-Conference, while Xzavion Huff, T.J. Smith, Drake Starks, and Sherrod Williams were named to the second team.
Tickets for Saturday’s game can be purchased by phone at 828-328-7116 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day between Monday and Friday. Tickets can also be bought at the gate on the day of the game. Below is a breakdown of the ticket pricing.
RESERVED SEATING: $20
GENERAL ADMISSION: $15
NON-L-R STUDENTS/CHILDREN/SENIOR CITIZENS (65 and up): $3
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