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Gridiron Lowdown: Panthers Gear Up for Finale

The Florida Tech Panthers will play the final game of the 2017 season when they visit Delta State on Saturday afternoon. The team will look to bounce back from a bitter defeat at the hands of West Georgia last week.

“Our inability to be accurate passing the ball when guys were open, our inability to catch the football when guys were open and our inability to kick the football cost us the game,” said head coach Steve Englehart as he reflected on last week’s loss. “You gotta make extra points and field goals, we gave ourselves plenty of chances and we had guys open that didn’t catch the ball. If we make a couple of those plays, we wouldn’t be in the situation we were in at the end of the game.”

The Florida Tech kicking game has struggled mightily all season. After missing two field goals and an extra point Saturday, the Panthers are last in the Gulf South Conference, making 2-of-8 field goals and sixth out of nine teams in extra points, hitting 35-of-38.

The field goal stat is a bit misleading because only Shorter has attempted fewer field goals than the Panthers (7), but it is alarming, especially when you consider that things would’ve been a whole lot different on Saturday, had they been able to make those kicks.

“I thought our kicking game would be better for sure,” Englehart said. “We never kick a whole lot of field goals anyway, just because we’re pretty good in the red zone, but I would say it’s a little bit surprising. I thought it would be better than what it is.”

Now Florida Tech (5-5, 3-4 GSC) hits the road to take on a very good Delta State team, who sits at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the GSC. They started the season with five wins and lost two straight, before righting the ship last week against North Greenville with a 33-30 overtime win.

“Delta State’s playing for a lot,” Englehart said. “They’re playing for playoffs and we got a chance to upset them and keep them out of the playoffs and give ourselves a winning season.”

Englehart was quick to squash the notion that a chance at a winning season gave his team any extra motivation. “I’m not so sure we have any more motivation than what we’ve had any other week,” he said. “The motivation certainly was there last week to win homecoming and Senior Day and the motivation was there at Valdosta after coming off the West AL win. It’s just one of those things, we have to do a better job of executing.”

Regardless of the outcome this week, Englehart said there are two games that changed their fortunes this season. Last week’s game against West Georgia and the loss against West Florida at home on September 30th.

“We gave two away that would’ve given us a chance to probably be in the playoffs,” he said. “Those are the games you wish you had back. If we take care of business in those two, we’re sitting at 7-3 right now with a chance to be 8-3 and probably in the playoffs.”

Many would argue (and be correct) that the West Florida game was not one the Panthers gave away, more accurately, it was stolen from them on a phantom intentional grounding call, among other calls that absolutely shifted the balance of that game. The coach can’t and wouldn’t say that, but many fans and media members (including this media member) wholeheartedly believe that to be the case.

Englehart said the only game that the Panthers got beat from every angle was the game against Valdosta (42-14 loss). “Every other game we were right there and in it, we just didn’t take the opportunity to win the game.”

**This is our final installment of Gridiron Lowdown for the 2017 season. We would like to thank coach Englehart for taking time out of his morning every week to speak with us. He is as good a guy as you will come across in this business.

Thank you also to Daniel Supraner, Jerry Durney, Paul Van Scott and Alan Zlotorzynski for their help throughout this season.