Florida Tech Falls, 43-21, in the
First Round of the NCAA Playoffs
HICKORY, N.C. – Playing in the second postseason game in program history, Florida Tech was unable to keep pace with the explosive offense of Lenoir-Rhyne and fell to the Bears, 43-21, in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Playoffs at Moretz Stadium.
“I’m proud of our team and what we accomplished this year,” said head coach Steve Englehart. “We had a good season and fought hard. We had a lot of games that came down to the end and we were able to ink out wins, especially towards the end of the season, to get us into this position.”
Florida Tech is now 0-2 in NCAA Playoff games, while this is the fifth postseason win in Lenoir-Rhyne history.
Turnovers played a major role in the loss as the Crimson & Gray threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball twice in the game. Lenoir-Rhyne also forced the Panthers into four turnovers on downs. In total, LR scored 23 points off of Florida Tech turnovers.
“Ultimately it came down to miscues and not being able to finish drives,” added Englehart. “Us coaches, we like to think that it was our fault and our mistakes that caused the turnovers but of course you have to give credit to Lenoir-Rhyne. They had to go and get those turnovers. Obviously, if we don’t turn the ball over six times, it’s a much different game.”
The Bears outgained Tech, 475-299, including a 228-87 edge in rushing yards. LR picked up more than twice as many first downs than the Panthers, 25-12, and nearly doubled-up in time of possession. Florida Tech went 1-of-10 on third downs and 1-of-5 in fourth down conversions.
“I give a lot of credit to Lenoir-Rhyne, they are a great football team,” Englehart stated. “I have a ton of respect for coach Cronic and what he has done here at Lenoir-Rhyne in his first year. Their players played really hard. You can tell they are a disciplined and well-coached football team. They played great today.”
Trent Chmelik completed 14-of-35 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Romell Guerrier caught three passes for 116 yards and a score and Terrance Bynum added three receptions for 52 yards. Antwuan Haynes hauled in five passes for 28 yards and a touchdown, while also finishing with 34 yards on eight rushes.
GSC Defensive Player of the Year J.T. Hassell led the Panther defense with 19 tackles, including seven solo stops. This is the senior’s sixth game with double-digit tackles this season. Jimmy Hinel added 10 tackles and a forced fumble and John McClure had nine tackles and a sack. Richard Leveille had eight tackles, while Adonis Davis closed out his final game with seven tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack.
As a result of a Florida Tech fumble on the opening kickoff, Lenoir-Rhyne began its first possession of the game on the Tech 2-yard line. However, the Panther defense was able to hold the Bears to a field goal, a 28-yard kick by Chase Allbaugh with 12:49 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers quickly answered by executing a perfect Flea Flicker play and scoring on a 74-yard touchdown from Chmelik to Guerrier to grab a 7-3 advantage.
LR scored on the ensuing drive, on a 13-yard pass from Grayson Willingham to Drake Starks, to make it 10-7 with 9:49 to go in the first quarter. An Ameen Stevens 2-yard rush put the Bears ahead 17-7 just before the end of the first.
Lenoir-Rhyne continued to dominate through the second and third quarters, recording five unanswered scores ‑ three field goals and two touchdowns ‑ and grabbing a 40-7 advantage with 3:24 to go in the third.
The Panthers finally ended the bleeding when Derrick Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for his first career return touchdown.
Florida Tech attempted an onside kick by Zachary Leatherman on the ensuing kickoff and recovered it on the Bears’ half of the field. That recovery set up a Haynes 9-yard touchdown reception that trimmed the Panthers’ deficit to 40-21.
A 28-yard field goal by Allbaugh with 10:48 remaining in the fourth quarter increased LR’s lead to 43-21 and concluded the scoring in the game.
Florida Tech ends its 2018 season with an 8-4 record. The Panthers’ senior class accomplished a lot during their time donning the Crimson & Gray. The seniors won a school record 28 games over four years, made two NCAA Playoff appearances and racked up numerous individual and team school-records along the way.
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