FOLLOW LIVE: Florida Tech Takes On No. 18 Valdosta State With Conference Title At Stake
By Florida Tech // November 14, 2015
KICKOFF SET FOR SATURDAY AT 3 P.M.
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Florida Tech Panthers Visit Valdosta Saturday At 3 p.m., Win Would Solidify Playoff Spot
A few years ago not many would have believed you if you had said that in its third year of existence Florida Tech (7-3, 6-1 GSC) would be one win away from a Gulf South Conference Championship.
That, however, is exactly the case as the Panthers will battle No. 18 Valdosta State (7-2, 5-2 GSC) for at least a share of the conference crown on Saturday.
Additionally, a win would all but solidify a playoff spot for the Panthers, who come into the contest ranked No. 6 in Super Region II. The top seven teams from each super region advance to postseason play.
The Panthers and Blazers will face off in Valdosta, Georgia at 3 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. The game has been selected as the Division II Game of the Week and will be broadcasted nation-wide on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Head coach Steve Englehart and the rest of the team is well aware of what is at stake on Saturday.
“This is a huge game. It’s the last game of the year and we’re playing for a lot of things,” said Englehart.
“They’re a good football team. Valdosta, Georgia is Title Town, USA. It’s going to be a challenge. They have a lot of great players and a great staff. Cedric O’Neal is an excellent running back that we’ve seen for the last three years. Their quarterback is athletic and can make a lot of plays. Their defense is just really solid, they don’t give up a lot of big plays.”
Showing just how solid of a team they are, the Blazers, who are in the midst of a four-game winning streak, rank at the middle of the pack of the GSC in virtually every statistical category.
The Blazers rank fourth in both scoring offense and defense at 34.9 points per game and 23.6 points per game, respectively. VSU is fifth in total offense (407.9 AVG/G) and fourth in total defense (354.7 AVG/G).
VSU averages 182.3 yards rushing per contest, while allowing 180.2 yards per game on the ground, ranking fourth and fifth in the GSC, respectively. Through the air, the Blazers sit at fourth in passing offense (225.6 AVG/G) and fifth in passing defense (174.4 AVG/G).
O’Neal stirs the drink for the VSU offense, ranking third in the GSC in rushing yards per contest at 95.7. O’Neal has accounted for over half of the Blazers’ rushing yards this season. FIU transfer E.J. Hilliard leads the passing attack with 164.7 yards per game passing, third most in the conference.
Greg Dent is the big-play receiver for VSU, having hauled in 39 passes for 581 yards on the season. Coming out of the backfield, O’Neal has the second most receptions and receiving yards at 23 and 251, respectively. Donovan Bolden leads the team with five touchdown receptions.
Washington Sharmaine spearheads the Blazers with 71 total tackles in 2015. Eqim Etta-Tawo’s 6.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks pace VSU.
Florida Tech is on a pretty good roll of its own, having rattled off six consecutive victories. Most recently, the Panthers knocked off previously unbeaten, then No. 1 West Georgia last Saturday at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.
Gabe Hughes was a force for the Panthers, hauling in four passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdown receptions. Trevor Sand became just the second player this season to eclipse the century mark against the Wolves, carrying 19 times for 104 yards.
J.J. Sanders was a thorn in the side of the UWG offense, registering five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks. Trai Cadore and Tyler Rosenblatt each recorded an interception late in the first half.
One of the biggest plays of the game came from the special teams unit, when Leo Alba II blocked a James Dugan punt and Tevin Kirkland scooped and scored from 10 yards out.
Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will call a radio broadcast of the game from Valdosta, which will be available on 89.5 FM WFIT, at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.