Unbeaten No More: Panthers Hand No. 1 West Georgia First Loss of Season
FIT In Gulf South Conference Championship Race with Win Over Top-Ranked Wolves
MELBOURNE, FLA. – Consider the college football world shocked as Florida Tech (7-3, 5-1 GSC) knocked off previously unbeaten and No. 1 ranked West Georgia (9-1, 5-1 GSC) Saturday afternoon at Florida Tech Panther Stadium, holding off a furious comeback from the Wolves for a 28-26 victory.
“I don’t even know what to say,” an emotional head coach Steve Englehart said. “We came out absolutely on fire. I think West Georgia was sleep walking for a little bit there and we were taking advantage… we were fortunate to get out of here with a win and I am just proud of our kids.”
The Panthers came storming out of the gates, scoring the game’s first 14 points. Gabe Hughes got FIT on the board early with a 21-yard touchdown catch from Mark Cato and Tevin Kirkland doubled the lead with a 10 yard blocked punt return for six.
Following a UWG touchdown and failed two-point conversion attempt, Hughes notched his second score of the game from 31 yards out from Cato. The Panther QB finished off the half with a one yard touchdown rush with less than a minute to go in the stanza.
UWG made a game of it, rattling off 20 straight points, including a pair of scoring rushes by Devontae Jackson. However, the Panther defense stepped up when they need to most. Holding the Wolves off of the board for the final 13 minutes.
The Panthers jumped out to a 28-6 lead at halftime and were narrowly able to fend off the late charge of UWG, who scored 20-unanswered points in the second half.
The Panthers may have received a little help from above, so to speak, as a lightning delay right at the height of West Georgia’s offensive push gave FIT a little time to collect itself.
“The good Lord probably saved us a little bit with the lightning delay,” said Englehart. “We were able to just say ‘okay, we get a second chance to start the half. Let’s come out like we did the first half.’ I thought we did a good job.”
Trevor Sand headlined the Panther backfield, registering 104 yards on 19 carries. Cato completed 17-of-26 passes for 183 yards and a pair of scores. Hughes put together his best statistical performance of the year, hauling in four passes for 77 yards and both of FIT’s touchdown receptions.
J.J. Sanders was all over the place for FIT, registering five tackles, including 2.5 tackles for a loss. The senior also tallied an assisted sack on Senior Day. Trai Cadore had a big day with five tackles, an assisted TFL and an interception. Tyler Rosenblatt set up FIT’s final score with a 27-yard interception return to the three-yard line.
Jackson was the main catalyst for the Wolves, carrying 21 times for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Three different Wolves led the team with six tackles. Dylan Donahue spearheaded UWG with six tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
With the win the Panthers move into a tie for first-place in the GSC and will clinch at least a share of the Conference title with a victory over No. 23 Valdosta State next Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia.
Saturday’s game will kickoff at 3 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app as the Division II Game of the Week.
Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will call a radio broadcast of the game, which will be available on 89.5 FM WFIT, at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.
Links to additional coverage will be available at FloridaTechSports.com/live.