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Panthers Lose to West Alabama at the Horn

Steve Englehart postgame press conference courtesy of 321Sportscast

Tre Jackson’s 33-yard field goal as the clock went to triple zeros gave the West Alabama Tigers a 13-10 victory over the Florida Tech Panthers in Melbourne. The loss dropped the Panthers to 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the Gulf South Conference.

Florida Tech got off to a good start, as Cornelius Doe intercepted Jacob Murphree on the Tigers’ second play of the game. Panthers quarterback Mike Diliello led his team on a nine-play, 82-yard drive, with Damien McGhee hauling in a 23-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, it was 7-0.

Tyrone Cromwell got the Panthers’ second interception of the day on West Alabama’s next drive. Florida Tech got to the seven-yard line, but back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties hurt the Panthers chances, and they had to settle for a Trey Schaneville 48-yard field goal, one yard short of the current school record.

The Tigers would get a field goal by Jackson with 7:53 left in the first half, cutting the Panthers lead to 10-3.

Schaneville would have a chance to get those three points back with 13 seconds left in the half, but his 32-yarder missed wide right and the differential remained seven.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and Diliello completed passes to Miles Kelly (17 yards) and Carson Kaleo for 23 yards, setting up Schaneville for a 37-yard attempt, but he missed wide right.

West Alabama would punt on their next possession and the Panthers got to the Tigers 30. The decision was made to go for it on fourth down, and Diliello was sacked, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 38 with 4:06 left in the quarter.

The Tigers would put together a good drive getting to the Panthers 12, but Doe came up big, picking off his second pass of the day in the corner of the end zone and getting the Panthers to the fourth quarter with the 10-3 lead.

With 6:54 to go, West Alabama put together a 13-play, 82-yard drive that swallowed up 5:34 off the clock. Qua Boyd caught four passes on that drive, including the 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 left in regulation, knotting the game at 10.

Diliello would complete a few short passes, and he would find Kelly for 10 yards, getting Florida Tech to their own 39. After a timeout, Diliello dropped back to pass one more time and was sacked by Jordan Jones. Diliello lost the ball on the way down, and it was recovered by Josh Hatcher at the Panthers 20 with 16 seconds left.

From there, it was just a matter of setting up for the field goal try and after Florida Tech called a timeout with four seconds left to ice Jackson, he was good from 33 yards out, and the Tigers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

Coach Steve Englehart had plenty to say after the game, including his thoughts on that last sequence. You can watch his press conference at the top of the page.

For more info: West Alabama @ Florida Tech Box Score

Diliello completed 20-off-33 passes in the losing cause, passing for 213 yards. He also rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries. Robert Foy was the Panthers leading receiver, with six catches for 73 yards.

Evan Thompson led the Panthers defense with 11 tackles. Thierry LaFortune and TJ Harrell had seven tackles each.

The Panthers will look to end their five-game losing streak next Saturday on the road against North Greenville. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Younts Stadium in Tigerville, SC.