Air Attack, Defense Lead Florida Tech Panthers Over Division I FCS Presbyterian

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first ever win over division I foe

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Redshirt junior quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 32 passes for 357 yards and a pair of scores and the Florida Tech defense held strong when needed as the Panthers defeated Presbyterian 28-7 Saturday night at Bailey Memorial Stadium.(Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA — Redshirt junior quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 32 passes for 357 yards and a pair of scores and the Florida Tech defense held strong when needed as the Panthers defeated Presbyterian 28-7 Saturday night at Bailey Memorial Stadium.

Jo Jackson was the stalwart of the defensive performance, picking off a pair of Presbyterian passes, becoming the first player in school-history to record multiple interceptions in a single game.

The Panther defense gave up a total of 378 yards, including 330 through the air, but consistently came up when it mattered most. FIT held the Blue Hose to 2-of-5 on fourth down attempts and allowed PC to score just once in five red zone trips.

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Joe Jackson

The key for the Panthers was the big play. Cato and co. averaged 18.8 yards per completion through the air and posted seven plays of 20-yards or more.

After a surprise 36 yard reception by Tevin Kirkland on FIT’s first offensive play of the game, Trevor Sand capped off a nine play drive with a one-yard plunge into the end zone. Moments later, Zachary Leatherman converted the PAT attempt to give FIT a 7-0 lead early on.

From there, both teams traded solid defensive possessions until the Panthers broke through again right before the half. Antwuan Haynes hauled in a pass on all three plays of the drive, snagging a swing pass and dashing 39 yards for a touchdown to finish it off and put FIT ahead 14-0 at the intermission.

Midway through the third quarter, Cato and Kenny Johnston hooked up for a one-play, 83-yard drive when the Panther signal caller drilled the senior tight end perfectly in stride and allowed the former Stanton Prep standout to out run the defense.

Redshirt junior quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 32 passes for 357 yards and a pair of scores

Redshirt junior quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 32 passes for 357 yards and a pair of scores. (Florida Tech image)

The Blue Hose stopped the bleeding on the next drive, driving down the field with precise passing and completing the drive with a 10-yard scoring pass from Will Brock to Darquez Watson. The seven points were the first given up by the Panther defense in its last 12 quarters.

Just when it looked like Presbyterian was seizing momentum, Jo Jackson came up big and turned the tide for FIT. The Orange Coast CC transfer broke hard on a PC out rout, picking the Brock pass and taking it 83 yards to the house, putting the Panthers ahead 28-7 early in the fourth quarter, a score that would hold up.

Haynes led the way in the receiving game, grabbing seven passes for 119 yards and a trip for six. Johnston added two catches for 106 yards and a score, while Wayne Saunders II added 84 yards on five receptions.

VIDEO: Florida Tech Stays On Road To Face Division I FCS Foe Presbyterian College Blue HoseRelated Story:
VIDEO: Florida Tech Stays On Road To Face Division I FCS Foe Presbyterian College Blue Hose
Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton

True to form, Chris Stapleton led the way in terms of tackles. The school’s all-time leader in the category registered 10 total stops, including seven solo tackles. Adonis Davis was extremely disruptive, posting 2.0 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

For Presbyterian, Brock tallied 275 passing yards, while Darrell Bridges was the only Blue Hose player to get anything going in the run game, totaling 67 yards on 16 carries. Defensive lineman Obinna Ntiasagwe was the team’s leading tackler with six total stops.

The Panthers return to action next Saturday, Oct. 1, hitting the panhandle for a matchup with upstart program West Florida in the first iteration of the Coastal Classic. The game is part of the NCAA Division II Showcase and will be televised on the American Sports Network.

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Score by Quarters  Score 
Florida Tech   28 
Presbyterian   7 
SCORING SUMMARY   FIT -PC  
1st  09:44  FIT   Trevor Sand 1 yd run (Z. Leatherman kick) 
         9 plays, 86 yards, TOP 3:28  7 – 0 
2nd  00:57  FIT   Antwuan Haynes 39 yd pass from Mark Cato (Z. Leatherman kick) 
         3 plays, 80 yards, TOP 0:28  14 – 0 
3rd  10:39  FIT   Kenny Johnston 82 yd pass from Mark Cato (Z. Leatherman kick) 
         1 play, 82 yards, TOP 0:13  21 – 0 
  07:25  PC   WATSON, D. 10 yd pass from BROCK, W. (NORTON, B. kick) 
         8 plays, 86 yards, TOP 3:14  21 – 7 
4th  12:52  FIT   Jo Jackson 83 yd interception return (Z. Leatherman kick) 
           28 – 7 
Kickoff time: 7:00 PM  • End of Game: 9:54 PM  • Total elapsed time: 2:54
Referee: Danny Short  •  Umpire: Rich McMahan  •  Linesman: Mike Owens  •  Field judge: Milton Britton  •  Side judge: Jim Corpora  •
Temperature: 87  • Wind: calm  • Weather: Clear, Hot

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