For the second consecutive week, Florida Tech Football team pitched a shutout, beating the Shorter Hawks 40-0 in Rome Georgia., as they improved to 3-0 to start the 2016 season.
It was a record-setting night for the Crimson and Gray, as they won their second consecutive Gulf South Conference game and are now 2-0 in the GSC for the first time in program history. It was also the first shutout on the road in school history.
The Panthers defense smothered the Hawks all night and with the shutout on Saturday, they have not allowed points in the last 10 quarters of football. With the 41-0 victory last week over Mississippi College, the Panthers have won their last two games by a combined score of 81-0 and have scored 40 points or more in all three games this season.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to start rolling, as they came out with a bit of a trick play on the first play of the game. Head coach Steve Englehart had both of his quarterbacks in the backfield, with the snap going to starter Mark Cato. He threw a screen pass to backup quarterback Brandon Ziarno, who unleashed a bomb that landed in the hands of Jaaron Barrett 69 yards later.
With the ball at the nine, running back Trevor Sand ran it in for the score and with 11:02 left, it was 7-0.
The drive lasted just 35 seconds, covering 78 yards in two plays. The Panthers would get the ball right back, when Chris Stapleton intercepted a pass from Tyler Pullum, setting the Panthers up at the Shorter 20-yard line.
After three incomplete passes, Zachary Leatherman came on to kick the field goal and he was good from 37 yards out, giving the visitors a 10-0 lead.
The next Florida Tech drive started at the Shorter 40 and included a 14-yard completion to Tityus Mitchell and a 17-yard strike from Cato to Wayne Saunders II, which got the ball down to the nine.
The drive stalled out and Leatherman came on for another field goal try. The snap was a bit off and Leatherman missed wide from 20 yards out.
The Panthers kept the offense going in the third quarter, getting another field goal from Leatherman, this time from 26 yards out, capping off an 11-play, 61-yard drive that ate up 4:04 and gave Florida Tech a 13-0 lead.
The defense came up big on the next Shorter possession, with defensive stud Adonis Davis and a host of Panthers getting in to sack Pullum for a loss of 11, setting up a fourth and long from the nine. A 25-yard punt gave the Panthers great field position at the 34 of the Hawks. That was the last drive for a while for Pullum, who was replaced by Matt Williams.
The last Panthers drive of the half came with 3:42 left. Tight end Kenny Johnston had a 20-yard catch and that was backed up by a 22-yard touchdown from Cato to Mitchell, making it 27-0, with 1:18 left. It was the first touchdown reception for Mitchell, who had a heck of a first half.
It took Cato and the offense just four plays to score again. The big play was a 12-yard TD pass to Troy Gatling, making it 20-0 with 6:00 left in the half. The FIT defense struck again at the end of the half, with Harry Brown getting a sack. Shorter had a timeout, but they just wanted to get to the locker room.
Florida Tech got the ball to start the third quarter and Cato capped off a nine-play drive with a sweet 30-yard scamper right up the middle, to make it a 34-0 game, with 11:29 left to go in the quarter. That was the end of the night for Cato, who finished with 200 yards even on 15-of-23 passing. He had two touchdowns and was sacked once.
Ziarno came in and picked up right where Cato left off. He played most of the third quarter, going 5-for-6 for 107 yards. The only scoring in that third quarter was a 33-yard field goal from Leatherman with 5:24 left.
The Shorter offense ran just 10 plays in that third quarter, for a total of -2 yards.
Leatherman would tally the only points of the fourth quarter as well, hitting a 27-yard field goal with 10:30 left. Third-string quarterback Ryan Singer, who took over for Ziarno with 1:21 left in the third, played all of the fourth quarter and was 6-for-6 for 64 yards. His longest pass of the night was a 19-yard strike to Robert Foy.
For more info: Florida Tech @ Shorter Box score
The final statistics for Florida Tech’s defense were beyond impressive. They held the Shorter offense to minus-10 net yards on the ground. They ran 43 plays total and gained 73 yards all night, including eight three-and-outs and 11 punts, totaling a whopping 400 yards.
On the flip side, the Panthers ran for 210 yards on the ground and had 581 yards of total offense, punting twice. Cato led all rushers with 47 yards, while Sand had 41. Barrett had the 69 yards receiving, all on that first big play. Saunders had six catches, 63 yards, and Mitchell had five, for 60.
Nothing jumps off the stat sheet at you offensively, which is good because that means it was a total team effort. On defense, Trai Cadore and Tyler Sheffield led with five tackles.
Next up for the Panthers will be a non-conference game against Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.