The Florida Tech Panthers pulled off a come-from-behind victory over Mississippi College last Saturday and will now face their toughest test of the season when they play host to an undefeated Valdosta State squad on Saturday at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.
Panthers head coach Steve Englehart took a few minutes on Thursday to reflect on the win over the Choctaws and look ahead to the homecoming game against a Blazers’ team that is averaging 55.33 points a game during their 6-0 start.
The Panthers had to come from 11 points down on Saturday night to beat a Mississippi College team that is much better than its 2-3 record would indicate.
“I thought it was a big win for a lot of different reasons, not just because we won the game and it was a Gulf South Conference win, but because we of the way we won it,” he said. “It was tough all game, we were down by eleven at one point and kind of had the play of the game with Dez Morgan returning the fumble (74 yards) and finding a way to win.”
“That’s what good teams do,” Englehart continued. “They find a way to win when maybe they’re not necessarily playing their best. We’ve been in several of those games this year and I think that’s only making us stronger as we move down the stretch.”
Running back Antwuan Haynes had his best game of the season Saturday, rushing for 112 yards on 15 carries and scoring one touchdown. He averaged 7.5 yards a carry and Englehart hopes that is a sign of things to come.
“He had several really nice runs and put together a pretty good game,” he said. “I’m hoping for sure that this can kind of get him going and get our whole offensive line going. “I think our offensive line played pretty good last week and we just gotta continue to run the ball to keep people off balance. If we can get 100 yards a game out of Antwuan, that’s gonna be huge for us.”
Defensively, the Panthers were led by GSC Defensive Player of the Week J.T. Hassell, who had a school-record 20 tackles, including 14 solos. Hassell won the award for the second consecutive week and the third time this season.
“He’s just playing good football right now,” Englehart said. “Obviously, the type of game it was, was set up for him to have a 20 tackle game, they run the ball right at him pretty much, but really proud of J.T. and what he’s done this year. Don’t know where we’d be without him.”
Now with Mississippi College in the rearview mirror, Valdosta State has been the focus this week and coach knows this is gonna be a tough test.
“We’ve gotta take away the deep ball,” said Englehart. “They throw a ton of deep verticals and posts, but as soon as you take away that and spend all your time on that, then they can run the ball really well. They’ve got a couple good running backs. They do a good job of stretching the field both vertically and horizontally and our defense has a great challenge ahead of them.”
“They’ve got a great quarterback (Rogan Wells), I think he’s probably the best quarterback in the league right now, continued Englehart. “He’s got more touchdown passes than anyone on the country. They’ve got a pretty balanced attack and we’re not gonna hold them to nothing, we understand that we just have to play good and take away the things we can take away, play good situational football and score some points on offense. I think it’s gonna take a 31 to 35 point effort to get a win.”
Coach touched on Wells, who has thrown for 1,595 yards and 23 touchdowns through six games for the Blazers. He has just 76 incompletions and three interceptions. He has also rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Jamar Thompkins has rushed for 587 yards and five touchdowns. Brian Saunds and Lio’undre Gallimore are the deep weapons for Wells, with Gallimore‘s 495 yards leading the way. Saunds leads with 19 catches, good for 372 yards and eight touchdowns.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. and will be crowded, so make sure you get there early. If you can’t make it out to the stadium, catch Jerry Durney and Alfredo Muente on WFIT 89.5, as well as WFIT.org and the TuneIn Radio app. The pregame show gets underway at 12:30 p.m.