The Florida Tech Panthers playoff hopes got a big boost last Saturday, with their 37-7 win over Gulf South Conference foe North Greenville.
“I thought it was a really good win,” said Panthers head coach Steve Englehart. “We could’ve played better in certain areas and it kind of got sloppy there at the end with all the personal fouls, but the defense played well, forcing the five turnovers, and the offense put together some good drives for us.”
North Greenville was without their starting quarterback Will Hunter, who was a game-time decision because of a knee injury.
“We knew it was a possibility he wouldn’t play, but when he came out for warm-ups he did have his equipment on and they still had him listed as the starter on the depth chart,” said Englehart. “When he came out before the game he didn’t have his equipment on and we knew from the demeanor of the coaches and the other quarterbacks, he wasn’t playing.”
“Not that it changed what we did defensively,” Englehart continued. “We were ready to go and had a good scheme for them.”
It was a great day for some individual Panthers, as Antwuan Haynes broke the all-time rushing record at Florida Tech and now will look to add to his 3,361 yards when the Panthers travel to Rome, GA this Saturday, to take on the Shorter Hawks in the regular season finale.
Haynes needs one more touchdown to break the single-season record at Florida Tech, which he now shares with former quarterback Mark Cato, at 24.
“Hopefully Antwuan can get that touchdown record this week,” said Englehart.
J.T. Hassell broke the 100-tackle barrier for the season with his second tackle on Saturday and now has 103 overall, which leads the GSC. His 68 solo tackles also lead the conference as does his 10.3 tackles per game.
“I am really proud of those guys,” said Englehart. “They have both been great players for us and hopefully they can add to their totals beyond this week.”
Haynes and Hassell had company in the Florida Tech record books on Saturday, as freshman kicker Trey Schaneville hit his 13th field goal of the season in the second quarter, setting a new single-season mark.
“Trey has been good for us all year,” said Englehart. “We’ve done things all year to simulate pressure on him and this morning we cranked up the music real loud and guys were trying to rattle him, but he was 5-for-5 this morning in pressure field goals.”
Shorter comes into Saturday’s game with a 0-10 record, including 0-7 in the conference. They have lost a staggering 38 straight games and coach Englehart does not want his team to be the one the Hawks break that streak against.
“We definitely thought about that, and we look at this as a playoff game,” said Englehart. “We are not a team that looks past anyone and we don’t even know who we’d play next week if we win, so this is a do or die game for us.”
Despite their record, Englehart is aware that Shorter has good athletes and said they do a lot of different things on offense and defense.
“We just have to play a fundamentally sound football game,” he said.
Shorter is at the bottom of the conference in offense, scoring 13.9 points per game, while the Panthers are averaging 26.8. The Shorter defense is allowing an average of 50.1 points a game, with the Panthers allowing 22.8.
Panthers quarterback Trent Chmelik has completed 177 of his 288 passes, throwing for 2,295 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has thrown eight interceptions.
Wide receiver Romell Guerrier has caught 51 of those passes from Chmelik for 848 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brian Spurgeon, Jr. has 29 catches for 423 yards
The running game centers on Haynes, who has 166 carries and 706 yards. He has scored four touchdowns.
On the other side, Tyler Pullum has thrown 310 passes, completing 175 of them for 1,794 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has thrown 18 interceptions.
Elijah Gilbert is Pullum’s favorite target, as the two have connected 43 times for 441 yards and six touchdowns. Joseph Ross has 30 catches in nine games this season, for 350 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Panthers are allowing 178.7 pass yards per game, while the Hawks are giving up 298.3 yards per game through the air. Florida Tech is allowing 152.8 on the ground, while Shorter is at 208.4.
All the statistics favor Florida Tech and a win on Saturday would all but sew up a second trip to the postseason for the Panthers, but as the saying goes, on any given Sunday (or in this case Saturday), any team can be beaten. That likely won’t happen, but you can bet the Panthers will play as hard as they’ve played all season for those 60 minutes.
You can listen to the game on WFIT 89.5 and WFIT.org, as Jerry Durney and Alfredo Muente will be on the call. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. EST.