It took a stop by Daniel Welch on a two-point conversion attempt for the Panthers to win last week at Savannah State. This week it took a knocked down Hail Mary pass by Ty Cromwell for the Panthers to escape with a 30-28 win at Newberry on Saturday afternoon.
“I told them to embrace who we are, we’re the cardiac kids,” said Panthers head coach Steve Englehart in his postgame interview with Jerry Durney. “All the fans better get used to it as well.”
Quarterback Trent Chmelik started the game 6-of-7 passing and ended up 11-of-16 for 210 yards. He was limited in the second half, due to an injury in the third quarter.
Chmelik got off to a great start completing a 44-yard pass to Brian Spurgeon on the first drive and capping it off with a 20-yard completion to Damien McGhee, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead 55 seconds into the game.
Chmelik and Spurgeon would connect again on the Panthers third drive of the game, a 48-yard hook up, helping set up Trey Schaneville’s 39-yard field goal, and putting the Panthers up 10-0 with 2:17 left in the first quarter.
Spurgeon would end up with 103 yards on just four catches, resulting in the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, in a game being played in his home state.
“He is valuable,” said Englehart of Spurgeon. “He’s another guy that had two really good games in the first two games and he’s a big-play guy. We’ll keep giving him the ball.”
The Wolves got on the board to start the second quarter when quarterback Dre Harris hit Bryson Woodruff from 10 yards out to make it 10-7 with 11:50 to go in the half. An Alex Smith interception on a tipped ball game Newberry good field position at their own 46, and they were able to capitalize as Logan Bailey ran it in from five yards out and just like that, Newberry led 14-10 with 4:21 left in the half.
The Panthers (2-0) did not panic, as coach Englehart changed things up with Mike Diliello at quarterback. All he did was rush for 55 yards and pass for another 28 on the drive that culminated with him punching it in from three yards out with 48 seconds left in the half, giving the Panthers a 17-14 lead.
The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Newberry and recovered by John McClure of the Panthers. Diliello would score his second touchdown in 35 seconds, running it in from two yards out, and giving the Panthers a 23-14 lead at the half. Diliello would carry the ball 14 times for 66 yards, and two touchdowns.
Chmelik got the Panthers going on their second possession of the third quarter when he ripped off a big 45-yard run. He was hit late on the play, resulting in a 15-yard penalty, and the Panthers had the ball at the Newberry six. Chmelik was injured on the play according to Englehart, and he was limited the rest of the way.
Daniel Richardson would score from there, and the Panthers were up 30-14. Richardson carried the ball 12 times for 70 yards and that touchdown. He led the Panthers in rushing.
The Panthers defense suffered a big blow late in the third when McClure was tossed from the proceedings after he was called for targeting. He will now miss the first half of the game next week at Delta State.
After Florida Tech fumbled to start the fourth quarter, Newberry (0-2) used a bit of trickery when running back Logan Bailey took the direct snap and found Austin Gordon from nine yards out, making it 30-21 with 12:59 to go.
After a Florida Tech punt, the Wolves went right down the field and Harris ran it in from one yard out, making it a 30-28 contest with 7:46 to go.
After the teams traded punts, Newberry would get one more chance from their own 12 with 40 seconds left. Harris completed passes of 20, 10, and 11 yards, getting the ball to the Florida Tech 45, and setting up one last gasp throw.
Harris had the distance, but Cromwell batted it away, and with that, the Panthers escaped for the second straight week.
“I couldn’t see the play because the sideline blocked my view, and I couldn’t get anybody to tell me what happened,” said Englehart. “I heard the crowd, so I thought did he catch it first off, and I realized he didn’t catch it, but I’m still hearing the crowd and I still couldn’t get anybody to tell me anything., and I said ‘did we win or not?’. Finally, I saw the official hold the ball up to signal the end of the game.”
The Panthers got contributions from a lot of different players today, and that is big for Englehart, who knows his team is not likely going to blow anybody out.
“I said ever since spring ball that we don’t have any stars, he said. “We have a lot of hard hat guys and they’re all valuable. “Every single person on this team is valuable in some way. They all matter.”
For more info: Florida Tech @ Newberry Box Score
Florida Tech had 437 total yards, including 193 on the ground. They outgained Newberry by 57 total yards, despite the Wolves’ edge in time of possession 33:18 to 26:42
The Panthers start conference play next week, as they travel to Cleveland, MS to take on Delta State. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.