Valdosta State Ends Florida Tech’s GSC Title Hopes, Panthers Playoff Hopes Still Alive
By Florida Tech // November 15, 2015
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Tech Senior Linebacker Chris Stapleton talks with Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski about the Panther loss to Valdosta State and Tech’s playoff hopes.
Panthers will hear their playoff fate Sunday during the NCAA Selection Show at 5 p.m. on NCAA.com
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech came into its game with No. 18 Valdosta State with a lot of confidence and hope. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the Panthers day as FIT (7-4, 5-2 GSC) was defeated 39-21 by the Blazers (8-2, 5-2 GSC) to end its Gulf South Conference Championship aspirations.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said head coach Steve Englehart.
“Obviously Valdosta State did a great job. They executed better than we did and they got a heck of a lot penalties than we did. That was probably the biggest story of the game in us having a lack of success was penalties… It seemed like we could just never get in a flow or a rhythm. I credit Valdosta State and their staff.”
The Blazers came right out of the gates with a scoring drive, culminating with a 29-yard catch by Chris Anderson. After VSU missed the extra point attempt, FIT answered right back with a Mark Cato plunge into the end zone from a few yards out to take a 7-6 lead early.
VSU had a response of its own, regaining the lead when Austin Scott punched it in from a yard out.
FIT continued the back-and-forth trend as Antwuan Haynes hit a seam and turned on the jets for a 38-yard touchdown scamper.
The Blazers would have the last laugh of the half, scoring on an 18-yard pass from E.J. Hilliard to Anthony Ingram. The Panthers quickly marched into field goal position but Drake Hillman’s 42-yard field goal attempt was ruled to be wide.
The Panthers once again took the lead just minutes into the second half as Cato hit a wide open Kenny Johnston for a 76-yard bomb. However, from there on out it was all Blazers as VSU scored the final 20 points of the game.
Mark Cato finished the contest 16-of-23 for 212 yards and a touchdown. Johnston was the primary target, hauling in five passes for 128 yards. Trevor Sand led the way on the ground with 81 yards on 11 carries, while Haynes chipped in 74 on eight rushes.
Defensively, Chris Stapleton put in his usual workman-like effort. The junior captain led the team with nine tackles, including one for a loss. Tevin Kirkland and Devan Kinlaw each registered a sack.
For VSU, Hilliard tossed for 294 yards and a pair of scores, while also rushing for 55 and a touchdown. Cedric O’Neal rushed for 61 yards and a score. Anderson had a big game out wide, hauling in eight passes for 90 yards and a trip to the end zone.
Sharmaine Washington spearheaded the defensive effort, accumulating 12 tackles, including 1.5 TFLs and a sack. Raymond Palmer had the only takeaway in the game, picking off Cato on a last-ditch deep pass.
The Panthers will have to await their playoff fate until the NCAA Selection Show, set for 5 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
The top seven teams from each super region receive a postseason berth.
FIT entered the contest with VSU slotted sixth in Super Region II.