Panthers Triumph Over Choctaws at Home
Florida Tech Wins 31-24, Improves
to 5-1 Overall and 2-1 in the GSC
MELBOURNE, Fla. – After falling behind by double-digits to Mississippi College (2-3, 0-3 GSC) moments into the third quarter, Florida Tech (5-1, 2-1 GSC) controlled the remainder of the second half and the Panthers walked away with a 31-24 victory in Gulf South Conference action Saturday night at Panther Stadium.
“This was probably the biggest win of the year for us,” said head coach Steve Englehart. “That was a great football team (Mississippi College) out there and they are going to win a lot of games…This was a gutsy and resilient win.
“Games like this are what bring a team together. We’ve had a lot of games like this so far this year that are coming down to the wire. We’re winning games at the end of the game and that will do a lot more for a team than blowing someone out. I’m extremely proud of our team and we’ll be better off for this win. ”
With the result, Florida Tech improves to 5-0 all-time against Mississippi College, and 3-0 when the teams play on the Panthers’ home field.
The Crimson and Gray got off to a good start scoring on their first possession of the game. The Panthers drove 42 yards on nine plays and set up Trey Schanevillefor a 42-yard field goal, which the freshman converted to put Florida Tech up 3-0 with 9:51 left in the first quarter.
MC answered with an extensive scoring drive to take their first lead of the game. The Choctaws pieced together an 83-yard drive that included 20 plays and lasted 11:44. The drive ended with a three-yard dive by Tiberias Lampkin into the end zone with 13:01 left before halftime.
The Choctaws struck again later in the second quarter on another run by Lampkin. This time the running back took it in from one yard out to cap off a 10-play, 80-yard drive that gave MC a 14-3 edge with 5:12 remaining in the half.
The Panthers did cut into the deficit before halftime as Austin Evarts powered his way into the end zone from six yards away to make it a 14-10 game with 3:09 to go. The score would remain the same into halftime.
Right out of the break, Mississippi College drove 70 yards down the field in five plays and set up backup quarterback Aaron Feazelle for the nine-yard touchdown run, which gave the Choctaws a 21-10 lead with 12:13 remaining.
MC drove down the field again on its next possession, getting to the Panthers’ 24-yard line in six plays. However, Lampkin muffed the hand-off by Feazelle on the next play and Dezmond Morgan was there to pick it up and run the fumble back 74 yards for a defensive touchdown and made the score 21-17.
It looked as though the Panthers were going to take the lead back late in the third quarter as they had a first down on the Choctaws’ 12-yard line. But Elijah Rogers had other plans and picked off Chmelik in the end zone to secure Mississippi College’s lead heading into the fourth.
The Panthers finally regained the lead with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter as Trent Chmelik connected with Damien McGhee for a 28-yard touchdown strike to give Florida Tech a 24-21 advantage. McGhee, who made a terrific diving catch on the play, also had an 18-yard reception earlier in the drive.
After the Choctaws capped off a nine-play, 53-yard drive with the game-tying field goal with 5:57 left, the Panthers got the ball back on their next possession and fed the rock to, who else, but Antwuan Haynes. The senior running back ran the ball all five plays of the drive and then scored, untouched, from 26 yards out to push the Crimson and Gray’s lead to 31-24 with 3:41 to go.
The Florida Tech defense came up big to close out the game, holding the Choctaws to a 3-and-out and a turnover on downs their final two drives, as the Panthers went on to improve to 3-0 at home this season.
Despite having 21 fewer plays in the game, Florida Tech finished with just three fewer yards than Mississippi College, 355-352. The Panthers averaged 7.3 yards per play and finished with 184 yards passing and 168 yards rushing. MC ended with 247 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 58 runs.
Chmelik completed 14-of-21 passes for 184 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The junior quarterback was also very effective on the ground, running for 70 yards on five carries.
Brian Spurgeon, Jr. led Florida Tech with four receptions and 86 yards, while Romell Guerrier finished with four catches for 23 yards. McGhee earned 52 yards and a touchdown on three receptions.
Haynes had his best rushing performance of the season, averaging 7.5 yards per rush against the Choctaws. The senior closed the night with 112 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries, and now has 3,067 rushing yards for his career. He ranks second all-time in program history in total rushing yards and is the second Panther to ever surpass the 3,000-yard mark.
“I thought Antwuan played really well today,” said Englehart. “The good thing I thought he did tonight was when he got to the second level, instead of just trying to run someone over, he was just making people miss and picked up those extra yards and kept the chains moving.”
On defense, T. Hassell had himself another impressive game for the Panthers. The GSC’s leading tackler finished with 18 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss, and one pass breakup in the win.
Adonis Davis also had a great game, recording 11 tackles and two tackles for loss. The school-record holder for sacks added another one against the Choctaws but it was his work in the trenches that received the most recognition from Englehart.
“He (Adonis) made some plays tonight,” stated Englehart. “He definitely made some big plays for us in the fourth quarter, and obviously had the sack there at the end.”
“It was a tough game for him, for any defensive lineman, it’s a tough game. His job is to come down and take the dive every single time. He has to tackle that player every single play, and when that guy doesn’t have the ball, Adonis doesn’t get credit for his play in the stats. It was a tough game and Adonis played great.”
Daniel Welch added seven tackles and Jimmy Hinel tallied six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. John McClure recorded five tackles and a pass breakup, while Braxton Larmond notched five tackles and one tackle for loss.
Florida Tech returns to Panther Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 13, as the Panthers host Valdosta State for their Homecoming Game. Kickoff between the Panthers and Blazers is set for 1 p.m. ET.
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