PANTHERS BLOW OUT AVE MARIA IN HOME OPENER
By Ryan Jones, Assistant Athletic Director, Communications // September 14, 2014
PANTHERS HEAD FOR Lone Star Football Festival
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Tech head coach Steve Englehart talks about his team’s decisive win over Ave Maria in the Panther’s 2014 home opener at Pirate Stadium.
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BREVARD COUNTY • PALM BAY, FLORIDA – Florida Tech came into tonight’s contest seeking revenge from a devastating loss to Ave Maria a season ago. The Panthers did just that Saturday night at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium, exploding for six touchdowns against the Gyrenes to come away with a 42-6 win.
After each team parried back and forth with five consecutive punts, FIT gained great field position on a fumbled Ave Maria punt return at the Gyrene 16.
Four plays later the Panthers opened scoring as Kaleb Leach powered his way through multiple defenders for a five yard touchdown run with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter.
Following a turnover on downs from the Gyrenes on the next drive, FIT took just one play to widen the margin as Mark Cato connected with Aaron George deep for a 39 yard touchdown pass.
Ave Maria struggled to maintain possession in the first half, surrendering three Clayton Uecker interceptions on top of the fumbled punt return. Despite the large number of takeaways, however, the Panthers went into the half with just a 14-0 advantage.
The second half opened much the same as the first half played out, with a Gyrene turnover.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Kenny Johnston knocked the ball loose from the grasp of Ave Maria’s Dayshaun Womble and Mike Ferguson pounced on the loose ball at the Gyrene 28 yard line. One play later Gary Holmes found some space around the edge and bolted for a 28 yard touchdown.
Cato found a wide open Wayne Saunders II from eight yards out on the next FIT drive, and on the very next play Trai Cadore, who recorded an interception earlier, scooped and scored on another Ave Maria fumble to continue the onslaught.
With just under four minutes played in the half, what was once a somewhat tenuous 14 point lead at the break had blossomed into a commanding 35-0 stronghold.
The Gyrenes got on the board with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter as Uecker connected with Thomas Zimmer for a 14 yard touchdown pass, but Ave Maria would have to settle for six as Brandon Leon’s PAT attempted hit the right upright.
The Panthers came right back, though, as Cato lofted an arching pass to a streaking George, who took it the rest of the way for a 57 yard score to give FIT the 42-6 lead that they would finish the game with.
Following up on his head turning debut at Stetson, Cato again looked strong.
The redshirt freshman compiled 179 yards and three touchdowns on 10 of 23 passing. Most of those yards came on passes to George, who tallied 108 yards and two scores on three receptions. Holmes led the Panther backs, gaining 54 yards and a trip for six on only six rushes.
ABOVE VIDEO: Aaron George talks with SpaceCoastDaily.com after the Panther’s victory over Ave Maria. George caught three passes for 108 yards and two Florida Tech scores.
For the second week in a row FIT held its opponent to less than 300 yards of total offense. The Panther defense did a tremendous job in the turnover battle, picking off Uecker three times and recovering four Ave Maria fumbles. Cadore was all over the field for FIT, leading the team with nine tackles in addition to his two takeaways and a touchdown.
The Panthers will now travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the #16 Tarleton State Texans as part of the 2014 Lone Star Football Festival at awe-inducing AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, on Saturday at 5 p.m. CDT/6 p.m. EDT.
Season and individual game tickets remain for FIT’s four remaining home games. Tickets are available by calling 321-674-6228 or stopping by the Clemente Center Ticket Office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
A live radio broadcast of Saturday’s game will be available on the new Official Radio Partner of the Panthers, WFIT 89.5 FM, with Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott calling the game.
The feed will also be available by clicking on the ‘Listen Live’ button in the top left hand corner at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app. Additional live coverage, if available, will be accessible through FloridaTechSports.com.
SIGHTS & SOUNDS FROM THE PANTHER’S SEASON OPENER
ABOVE VIDEO: The Panthers score their first touchdown of the evening.
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Tech’s Trai Cadore blocks a punt in the second quarter of Florida Tech season opener against Ave Maria.