The Florida Tech Panthers are coming off a very exciting 26-23 win over Wingate last Saturday. The game had it all, big offensive plays, record-setting defense and a blocked extra point by the Panthers John McClure that sealed the victory.
We caught up with Panthers head coach Steve Englehart after Thursday’s practice in preparation for this weeks home game against Mississippi College
“I expected it to be a close game that would be decided in the fourth quarter and it was,” Englehart said. “I thought we learned a lot losing that game at West Georgia the week before and I thought we played well throughout the game.”
Defensively, it was a big day for the Panthers. J.T. Hassell set the single-game record for sacks with four, earning him the Gulf South Conference Player of the Week award and Adonis Davis recorded his 19th career sack, giving him the school record in that category.
“He’s an ultimate player, teammate, guy you wanna coach,” said Englehart of Davis. “He’s smart, he studies it, he knows football well, plus he works hard plus he’s really good. “I’m really happy for him, he’s been through a lot, never even knew if he was gonna be able to play college football. He wasn’t recruited out of junior college, we were the only ones that recruited him and were lucky enough to get him. Couldn’t be happier for him and I hope his great year continues.”
The defense has played a big part in the Panthers 4-1 record in September and the game against Wingate continued that trend.
“Defensively we played tough, got a lot of pressure on their quarterback, that’s ultimately what the difference in the game was,” said Englehart. “We didn’t give up a sack to their sack leader (Cardell Rawlings) and we got a bunch of sacks.”
“When we did give up the touchdown there at the end, we were able to block the extra point and return it for two which was huge,” Englehart continued. “Even if we blocked it we’d only be up by one and they’d have a chance for the onside kick and have the potential to beat us with a field goal. With us returning it, it put us up by three where a field goal would only tie in that situation. Luckily we were able to recover the onside kick, the first guy didn’t recover it, but the second guy did, Romell (Guerrier) bailed us out, it was probably his best play of the game even though he had several touchdowns and things like that.”
Defensive coordinator Rick Minter has put together a heck of a defensive scheme and deserves a lot of credit for the way his guys have played over the last couple years, but he is not the only one.
“We have smart kids here,” said Englehart. “Coach Minter and his staff do a great job, but it is year two, so they’re able to pick it up better in year two. They did pick it up pretty good, but they still made some mental errors, but I think we’re making less errors this year.”
“They scored 42 points against a good Valdosta State team, so that’s scary,” said Englehart. “They’re running the triple option, which is extremely difficult to defend, so we’ve gotta play disciplined football and be tough on defense again. They are a much-improved team and I think it’s gonna be another tough contest, another four-quarter game.” Florida Tech will look to get October off to a good start when they take on Mississippi College at Florida Tech Panther Stadium. The Choctaws (2-2) are coming off a 63-42 loss to #13 Valdosta State, their second consecutive loss.
Mississippi College running back Ja’Mori Mark ran for 147 yards in the loss and did it on just nine carries. He will be someone to watch on Saturday, along with Detric Hawthorn, who had 139 yards on 29 carries. The Choctaws had 451 yards rushing on the day while passing for only 64.
As a team, MC is averaging 320 yards per game rushing, allowing 163.5 per game to their opponent. The Panthers are averaging 109 yards a game while allowing 122.
The Panthers have blanked Mississippi College in each of the last two years, winning 41-0 in 2016 and 35-0 last season. It would be hard to imagine that this year would yield similar results, as this is a much-improved team that will be making the trip to Melbourne Saturday night.
Saturday’s game will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. If you are unable to get out to the game, tune in to Jerry Durney and Alfredo Muente at 6:30 on WFIT 89.5. They will also be available on WFIT.org and this week they return to the TuneIn Radio app.