Florida Tech Wins Thriller On Last Play of Game

By  //  November 3, 2014

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Florida Tech 34, Shorter 30 (Final)

Xavier Milton, above, had a big day in Rome, including hauling in the game winning 41-yard Hail Mary pass to give Florida Tech a 34-30 victory over Shorter. (Florida Tech image)

Xavier Milton, above, had a big day in Rome, including hauling in the game winning 41-yard Hail Mary pass to give Florida Tech a 34-30 victory over Shorter. (Florida Tech image)

CLICK HERE FOR GAME STATS & BOX SCORE

ROME, GEORGIA – Things looked pretty bleak for Florida Tech after Shorter’s Eric Dodson scored on a 34-yard rush to take a 30-28 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the game.

Xavier Milton had other plans, though, as the senior wide receiver was able to get behind the Hawks’ secondary and bring down the 41-yard Hail Mary heave to give the Panthers an improbable 34-30 victory.

Steve Englehart

Steve Englehart

“It wasn’t pretty but any time you can come on the road and get a victory it builds confidence,” said head coach Steve Englehart.

“I don’t care who it is, when you come on the road and get a win like that I think it’s big. Shorter is a much better team than their record would indicate. We saw them against West Texas A&M when we were in Dallas and they probably should have won that game. To be honest, they should have won a lot of games. For us to get our sixth win and guarantee our first winning team, obviously that’s special.”

While the Panther defense held the Shorter triple option attack at bay early on, the FIT offense was unable to get anything going. The Hawks controlled the ball for nearly the entire first quarter, garnering just over 11 minutes of time of possession.

Shorter was able to move the ball down the field, recording 101 rushing yards and 123 yards all together in the first quarter, but the Panthers would keep the Hawks off the board.

Following a Shorter field goal, the Panthers seemed to be putting together their first sustained drive of the game but a Milton fumble at the Shorter 34 would bring the drive to a screeching halt. The Hawks would capitalize, punching the ball in from three yards out late in the second quarter to take a 10-0 lead into halftime. The Panthers were held scoreless in the first half for the first time all season.

On the first drive of the third quarter, Shorter safety Jordan Shaw, the Gulf South Conference’s leader in tackles and interceptions, was ejected for targeting. The Panthers didn’t take long to get on the board with Shaw out of the equation, as Gary Holmes broke free for an 18-yard scoring romp.

Mark Cato

Mark Cato

A Manny Abad interception on Shorter’s next drive would giveFlorida Tech the ball right back, but the Panthers would be unable to capitalize. However, Florida Tech would take its first lead on its very next drive as Mark Cato lofted a pass beautifully into the hands of a fading Milton for a three-yard touchdown connection.

Dodson would strike right back for Shorter but Milton would answer with a 42-yard scoring reception after the Hawks bit on a double-move. Bruce Clark would find pay dirt from 26 yards out to reclaim the lead for Shorter at 24-21. The Panthers thought they had the winning score when Cato hit Gabe Hughes in the back of the end zone and the tight end was able to get a foot down.

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Florida Tech seemed to be in good shape with only 1:48 remaining in the game, facing a team that primarily runs the ball but the dynamic Dodson was able to break the Panther defense, giving Milton the opportunity for his late game heroics.

Xavier Milton

Xavier Milton

Milton may have had his best game in what has been a storied career atFlorida Tech, catching 10 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Cato completed 18 of his 31 passes, totaling 285 yards and four scoring passes. Trevor Sand came up just short of another 100-yard game, gaining 96 yards on 21 carries.

J.J. Sanders was all over the field, tallying 15 tackles, including eight solo stops and 2.5 tackles for a loss. Chris Stapleton was also a stalwart for the FIT defense, tallying 13 tackles of his own and a half tackle for a loss.

JJ Sanders

JJ Sanders

Leo Alba recorded the only forced fumble for the Panthers, while Abad garnered the lone FIT turnover with his interception.

Aki Coles led the Hawks offense with 116 rushing yards on 16 carries. Dodson chipped in 103 yards and a pair of scores of his own on the ground, while also gaining 98 yards and a touchdown through the air. Zach Butts was the leading tackler for the Hawks, collecting 14 total stops.

Florida Tech will return to the Peach State in one week for another GSC road showdown. The Panthers will battle West Georgia in Carollton, Georgia with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. The game will be carried live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.

SECOND QUARTER

SHORTER: Kenny Langford field goal attempt from 27 GOOD.

SHORTER: Kirk Wilson rush for 3 yards to the FIT0, TOUCHDOWN.

THRID QUARTER

FLORIDA TECH: Gary Holmes rush for 18 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FIT, TOUCHDOWN.

• FLORIDA TECH: Mark Cato pass complete to Xavier Milton for 3 yards to the SU0, TOUCHDOWN.

SHORTER: Eric Dodson rush for 5 yards to the FIT0, TOUCHDOWN.

• FLORIDA TECH: Mark Cato pass complete to Xavier Milton for 42 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FIT, TOUCHDOWN.

FOURTH QUARTER

SHORTER: Eric Dodson pass complete to Bruce Clark for 26 yards to the FIT0, 1ST DOWN SU, TOUCHDOWN.

• FLORIDA TECH: Mark Cato pass complete to Gabe Hughes for 8 yards to the SU0, TOUCHDOWN.

• SHORTER: Eric Dodson rush for 34 yards to the FIT0, 1ST DOWN SU, TOUCHDOWN.

• FLORIDA TECH: Mark Cato pass complete to Xavier Milton for 41 yards to the SU0, 1ST DOWN FIT, TOUCHDOWN.

The last time Florida Tech faced Shorter the Panthers came away with a 28-24 victory to earn their first-ever Gulf South Conference win.

The Florida Tech Panthers are playing the Shorter Hawks in Rome, Georgia. Watch the game live.

GAME PREVIEW

Florida Tech Takes On Shorter In Rome, Georgia On Saturday

ROME, GEORGIA – The last time Florida Tech faced Shorter the Panthers came away with a 28-24 victory to earn their first-ever Gulf South Conference win.

Florida Tech's Gabe Hughes climbs over a Mississippi College defender for a touchdown in the Panthers' 44-9 Homecoming victory Saturday. (Ryan Seeloff image)

Florida Tech’s Gabe Hughes climbs over a Mississippi College defender for a touchdown in the Panthers’ 44-9 Homecoming victory Saturday. (Ryan Seeloff image)

Florida Tech will look to replicate that performance as the Panthers travel to Rome, Georgia for a 12 p.m. ET battle with the Hawks at Barron Stadium.

Florida Tech is coming off a dominating 44-9 Homecoming win over GSC newcomer Mississippi College at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium in Melbourne.

The Panthers put up a school-record 599 yards of total offense in the battle with the Choctaws.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Mark Cato had quite possibly his best day in Crimson and Gray, totaling 304 passing yards and an FIT-record five touchdowns through the air.

The Alachua, Florida native dispersed those scoring passes to four different players in Xavier Milton, Wayne Saunders, Gabe Hughes and Tyler Bass.

Despite only playing the first half, Milton was able to rack up 123 yards receiving in the game.

Jason Kollock, Chris Stapleton and Andrew Adair all tied for the team lead in tackles with seven, while 20 different Panthers recorded at least one tackle. Additionally, Adair forced a Choctaw fumble, recovered by Byron Matthews, and Keyon Elam registered Florida Tech’s lone interception.

Xavier Milton

Xavier Milton

Shorter returns home following a 37-6 drubbing at Valdosta State. The Hawks managed 308 yards of total offense in the game but were held to just 1-9 on third down conversions.

Quarterback Eric Dodson led the team in passing yards with 78 and in rushing yards with 84. Shorter’s only points came off the foot of Kenny Langford, who made a pair of field goals. Defensive back Jordan Shaw, the GSC’s leading tackler, led the Hawks with 10 total stops.

All remainingFlorida Tech football games can be heard on the Panthers’ new Official Radio Partner WFIT 89.5 FM. Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will start Saturday’s broadcast with a pregame show at 11:30 a.m. The broadcast can also be heard at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.

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Links to live video, audio and stats will be available at FloridaTechSports.com.

Fans Can Keep Up With Florida Tech Football By Following:

• Twitter at twitter.com/FLTechFootball
• Instagram at instagram.com/FloridaTechFootball
• Facebook at facebook.com/FloridaTechFootball

Tickets are available for the Panthers’ lone remaining home game on Nov. 15 versus Valdosta State at FloridaTechSports.com, by stopping by the Clemente Center Ticket Office Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by calling 321-674-6228.


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