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Panthers Come From Behind to Beat Choctaws

Postgame InterviewsCredit: Space Coast Daily – Alan Zlotorzynski and Steve Wilson (used with permission)

The Florida Tech Panthers overcame a 21-10 third-quarter deficit Saturday night, capped off by a 26-yard touchdown run by Antwuan Haynes, allowing the Panthers to come away with a 31-24 win at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.

Haynes touchdown came with 3:41 left on the clock and secured the Panthers fifth win in six games and gave them a 2-1 record in the Gulf South Conference. Haynes ended up with 112 yards, his only touchdown was the game-winner.

“I got in a rhythm and kept getting the ball, found a few holes and popped through ’em and made a few people miss,” Haynes said after the game.

“When he got to the second level, instead of running someone over he was trying to make people miss,” said Panthers head coach Steve Englehart. “He ran really well, I think he had about seven yards per carry and had the TD at the end.”

Haynes now has 3,067 yards in his Panther career and is just over 200 yards behind Trevor Sand’s all-time Florida Tech mark.

Coach Englehart got a bit choked up when he was asked to reflect on what Antwuan has done in his four years with the team.

“I just love Antwuan man, he’s such a great kid,” he said. I can’t believe it’s been four years with him, but he’s earned every yard he’s got. That’s all I can say, I just love Antwuan.”

Florida Tech got the ball first and was able to get points on the board, helped by a 45-yard run by quarterback Trent Chmelik. The drive stalled, but the Panthers did manage a field goal from Trey Schaneville, making it 3-0 with 9:45 left in the quarter.

That would be the only possession the Panthers would get in the first quarter, as the Choctaws put their triple-option offense on display. It is a pound it at the defense scheme, and they did it well, keeping the Panthers vaunted defense on their heels for much of the first three quarters.

Mississippi College went on a 20-play, 83-yard drive and held the ball for 11:44, bridging the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter. A three-yard touchdown by Tiberias Lampkin capped it off and the Choctaws were up 7-3 with 13:01 left in the half.

After a Florida Tech punt, Mississippi College went on another sustained drive, covering 80 yards in 10 plays. Lampkin paid this one off with a one-yard touchdown, giving the Visitors a 14-3 lead with 5:12 left in the half.

The Panthers got a much-needed touchdown on their next possession, as Chmelik used his feet again to get 21 yards on the opening play of the drive and one play later, he found Brian Spurgeon over the middle, good for 45 yards, down to the eight. After an illegal formation penalty moved the Panthers back, Haynes gained seven on the ground and Austin Evarts finished it off with a six-yard touchdown run, cutting the Choctaws lead to 14-10 with 3:09 left in the half.

Mississippi College (2-3, 0-3 GSC) started their next drive at the 16 and the Panthers defense were finally able to make a play, causing a turnover at the Choctaws 39 when Lampkin fumbled and Tyrone Cromwell came out of the massive pile-up with the ball.

Florida Tech only had 19 seconds with which to work, but they started at the 39 of the Choctaws and Chmelik’s 12-yard completion to Simon Williams gave Schaneville a chance at a 45-yard field goal that sailed wide, keeping the deficit at four as the halftime horn sounded.

Mississippi College got the ball to start the third and it was that man Lampkin again taking off for 52 yards on the opening play. He ran for seven more on the next play and ended up with 126 yards on 23 carries for the game. Aaron Feazelle ran for a nine-yard touchdown three plays later, giving the visitors a 21-10 lead with 12:13 to go in the quarter.

After forcing another Florida Tech punt, the Choctaws offense got the ball back and went on another long drive, looking poised to score again. On the seventh play of the drive, Lampkin was stopped and the ball came loose, ending up in the hands of Dezmond Morgan, who rumbled 74 yards to paydirt, making it 21-17 with 5:40 left in the third.

“Saw the ball, scooped it, had to score said Morgan of the play. “We needed it.”

After the first punt of the night for the Choctaws, Florida Tech started their next drive at their own 36. After a 19-yard pass to Spurgeon a couple plays in, Chmelik found Romell Guerrier in the corner of the end zone for what should have been the go-ahead touchdown. Unfortunately, Spurgeon was an ineligible man downfield and the play was called back. It was a late flag and those in attendance were not happy with a very questionable call.

Spurgeon did catch a ball later in the drive, good for 21 yards, but Chmelik was picked on the next play, as he threw into the end zone, looking for Terrance Bynum. Instead, Elijah Rogers jumped up and brought it down, ending the third quarter and keeping Mississippi College up by four.

The Choctaws would punt on that drive and Florida Tech put a nice drive together on the other end, going 68 yards in eight plays. Damien McGhee, who had an 18-yard catch going to the ground early in the drive, made a nice diving catch in the end zone, giving the Panthers their first lead since the first possession of the game, at 24-21.

The Choctaws got the ball back with 10:43 to go and they counted heavily on Feazelle who had 15 yards rushing and threw a 29-yard strike to Cole Rotenberry, setting the Choctaws up for a 39-yard field goal, tying the game at 24, with 5:57 left.

The drive started at the Panther 40 and Haynes was a man on a mission as his number was called five straight times, the last time he ripped off 26 yards and found the end zone, giving the Panthers a 31-24 lead with 3:41 to go.

Each team was forced to punt on their next possession, and the Choctaws got the ball back again with 49 seconds left. Feazelle threw two incompletions and then was sacked by Florida Tech’s all-time sack leader, Adonis Davis. It was the 20th career sack for Davis, who broke J.J Sanders sack record last week at Wingate.

“He made some plays tonight,” said Englehart of Davis. “He definitely made some big plays for us in the fourth quarter, and obviously had the sack there at the end.”

After another incompletion turned the ball over on downs, Florida Tech was able to run the last 10 seconds off the clock and come away with a huge victory.

This win was made more impressive when you consider that the Panthers ran just 48 plays to the Choctaws 69. Florida Tech had the ball for 22:07.

Chmelik, who ended the night 14-of-21 for 184 yards, knew going in that this was the type of game the Panthers would have to play.

“We knew this was how it was gonna go,” he said. Offensively we were gonna have limited possessions and they were gonna have a lot of time of possession on their offense and our defense was really gonna have to stick in and make a lot of stops.”

That defense made the stops when they needed them most. J.T. Hassell, who had four sacks last week, a single-game record, set another single-game record in this game with 20 tackles. He was credited with 15 solo tackles and five assists. He also forced a fumble. Davis finished with 11 tackles and Daniel Welch had seven.

For more info: Mississippi College @ Florida Tech Box Score

Florida Tech will face another very tough test next Saturday when they host Valdosta State at 1:00 p.m. The Blazers come in with a record of 6-0 (3-0 GSC), scoring a total of 332 points in those six games. Their lowest total was 45 points in week one.

It is Homecoming Saturday at Florida Tech Panther Stadium, so get to the game early. If you can’t make it out, Jerry Durney and Alfredo Muente will have the game for you on WFIT 89.5 and