Steve Englehart postgame comments
The Florida Tech Panthers (3-5, 1-4 GSC) struggled to get much accomplished Saturday, losing to No. 20 West Florida 38-14 in the fourth installment of the Coastal Classic at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Mike Diliello had the biggest play of the day for the Panthers, a 91-yard run to pay dirt with 9:02 to go in the second half. That score cut West Florida’s lead to 10-7 at the time. It also broke three Florida Tech records.
With that jaunt, Diliello set the school record for the longest touchdown in school history and broke the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season, scoring his 11th. The previous record was shared by Trevor Sand, and Antwuan Haynes, who each had 10 in 2016. Diliello also set a record with a rushing touchdown in his eighth consecutive game.
Finally, Diliello broke his own record for rushing yards by a Florida Tech quarterback, as he ran for 136 yards on 15 carries. He was the Panthers leading passer, completing 13-of-25 for 105 yards. Senior Trent Chmelik got the start under center and went 4-of-12 for 82 yards.
The Panthers turned the ball over four times in this one, including on the first drive when Chmelik was picked by Sharod Oliver. UWF QB Austin Reed was then picked by Cornelius Doe in the end zone, to keep the game scoreless.
Chmelik’s second interception came on the next possession, as he had the ball go off his receiver’s hands and right to an Argos defender. That one was converted into a touchdown, and the Panthers were down 7-0 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
The game was delayed at this point for about an hour and 20 minutes because of lightning in the area.
The Panthers held West Florida on the first possession of the second half, but the ensuing punt was fumbled and recovered by UWF, resulting in a field goal and putting the visitors up 10-0.
After being stopped for no gain on the opening play of the next drive, Diliello found a hole and broke through, finishing with that record-setting run. That made it 10-7.
The Panthers next possession resulted in a Corey Lane fumble, and UWF QB Austin Reed finished a 33-yard drive with a touchdown, and it was 17-7 at the half.
On the second offensive play of the second half, Shomari Mason went 61 yards for a touchdown, and the Argos were up 24-7. After the Panthers went three-and-out, Reed found Kevin Grant for a 65-yard touchdown, and with 11:48 left in the third, it was 31-7 Argos.
The Panthers kept fighting as they answered with a 15-play, 82-yard drive that culminated with a Diliello 7-yard pass to Kenny Hiteman, with 5:50 left in the third.
A 2-yard touchdown by Jaden Gardner came just six seconds into the fourth quarter, putting an end to the scoring.
For more info: West Florida @ Florida Tech Box Score
The Panthers have lost four in a row, and will now have to win out to achieve a winning season. Their quest begins next week with a home game against West Alabama. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.