The Florida Tech Panthers are looking to shake off a tough loss to Valdosta State last Saturday at home and they have a tough task ahead, with the Coastal Classic coming up this Saturday in Pensacola.
Thursday morning, Panthers head coach Steve Englehart took a look back and a look ahead, in our weekly interview.
Valdosta State ruined the Panthers homecoming game on Saturday, winning 51-21 and handing the Panthers their second loss of the season. Englehart used one word when asked about the players’ feelings after watching the film.
“Embarrassed. Embarrassed because of the way we played,” he said. Valdosta State’s a good team and gotta give them a lot of credit for causing us to play bad in certain situations, but we had a lot of missed assignments on offense and defense.”
Defensively, the Panthers allowed 496 yards, something this team is not used to.
“You’re only as good as your last performance and obviously we weren’t very good that week,” Englehart said. “The embarrassment of the way they played says it all.”
Englehart said there were about 25 missed assignments on offense, about 48 missed assignments on defense and 20-plus missed tackles. Add to that about eight dropped passes and you can see how things spiraled out of control for the Panthers.
“It was just kind of an ugly day,” Englehart said. “We didn’t play very well and certainly Valdosta State was able to exploit us during that time.”
Florida Tech quarterback Trent Chmelik was one of the bright spots in last week’s game, throwing for a career-high 290 yards and completing 26 of his 45 passes. He also had a run of 23 yards.
“Trent’s always a positive person when you think about the way he’s played and the way he prepares,” said Englehart. “I think he prepares better than anyone on our team, he’s a great leader and the way he’s playing and progressing, getting better every week really says a lot about him. He’s never satisfied and continues to work hard.”
With Valdosta in the rearview mirror, the focus this week has been West Florida. The Argonauts have won both of the previous meetings by a total of five points. The Argos won 42-39 in 2016 and 23-21 in 2017.
“I look at those two games as games we should’ve won,” Englehart said. “They were able to do enough to win and they played better the last couple minutes of the game than we did. It’s a tough place to play, they’ve got really good athletes that play really hard, they’ve got good schemes, they’re coached well.”
The fact that West Florida has been able to beat us the last two years has been obviously disappointing, he continued, “But we’re excited to go and hopefully play better this year. “It’s just gonna be a good Gulf South Conference matchup, like most of them are.”
West Florida is led by quarterback Sam Vaughn, who has thrown for 1,797 yards and 15 touchdowns. Vaughn was pressed into duty after starter Mike Beaudry was injured late in the first quarter of West Florida’s season-opening win against Carson-Newman.
Vaughn has thrown 15 touchdown passes so far this season. His two main targets are Tate Lehtio, who has 30 catches this season for 415 yards and Ishmel Morrow, who has 30 catches for 399 yards. One more guy who can’t be overlooked is Quentin Randolph, who has 15 catches, good for 246 yards.
Lehtio is the brother of Florida Tech freshman Tai Lehtio, who is redshirting this season. They will not see each other in game action this time around, but with Tate in his junior season, you would expect that they will both be playing in the 2019 edition of the Coastal Classic.
The UWF rushing attack will be led by Chris Schwarz, who has 545 yards on the ground.
As for Florida Tech, Chmelik will look to continue his impressive progression as he starts his second Coastal Classic. He started last year’s installment with Mark Cato out due to a shoulder injury. Chmelik has thrown for 1,568 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games. He is second on the team in rushing with 183 yards.
Antwuan Haynes leads the Panthers with 457 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt. He has scored three touchdowns. Romell Guerrier is the Panthers leading receiver, catching 37 balls for 571 yards.
Florida Tech is averaging 25.57 points per game while allowing 23.43. The Argonauts are averaging 26 points per game while allowing an average of 20.29. Both teams come into the game with a 5-2 record, with UWF boasting a 3-1 conference record and the Panthers are 2-2.
Saturday’s Kickoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. Jerry Durney and Alfredo Muente will have the radio call on WFIT FM 89.5 and WFIT.org beginning with the pregame at 4:30 p.m., while Alan Zlotorzynski and the crew from Space Coast Daily will be streaming the game on Facebook.