Florida Tech Shellacks Ave Maria 42-6 In Home Opener
By Space Coast Daily // September 13, 2014
FLORIDA TECH 42, AVE MARIA 6 (FINAL)
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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.
GAME PREVIEW: Panthers Welcome Ave Maria Gyrenes To Pirate Stadium Today
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Looking to erase the feeling of last season’s crushing 45-41 defeat at the hands of the Gyrenes, Florida Tech football returns to Melbourne to face off with Ave Maria in the home opener at 6 p.m. (EST) at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium.
The Panthers return to the cozy confines of home following a statement-sending 54-12 drubbing of Division I foe Stetson at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand, Florida. In the game, redshirt freshman quarterback Mark Cato kicked off his collegiate career with an FIT-record six total touchdowns, four through the air and two rushing.
“I’m excited about this week,” Panther head coach Steve Engelhart said. “I’m also excited about our players, I think they’ve had a good week of practice. They had to learn what Tuesday’s practice was all about after a game, I think they forgot from last year. We refocused them on Tuesday and it’s been a good week of practice. We’re playing at home in front of our home crowd and I’m excited about the fan support that we’ve gotten. I know our players are excited to go out and execute.”
In addition to his 19 carries for 63 yards, Cato connected on 7 of 15 passes for 191 yards in the affair, including three connections with Xavier Milton for 114 yards and a pair of scores. Not to be outdone by the freshman, Trevor Sand added 116 yards on the ground on just nine carries, including a 59-yard scamper.
Riding an eight-game winning streak, Ave Maria was halted by the Crusaders of North Greenville, falling by a score of 45-21. Clayton Uecker compiled 315 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 47 of 24 throwing in the loss. The Gyrenes top pass catcher in the contest was Travis Makauskas, who caught seven passes for 144 yards and a score. Ave Maria struggled in the ground game, recording just 59 yards on 30 carries.
In last season’s meeting with the Gyrenes, Florida Tech held a 41-31 advantage before Ave Maria made an improbable comeback with two touchdowns in the final 38 seconds of competition, including the game-winning touchdown catch with only a second to play.
The two squads matched up well in the game, with the Gyrenes holding a narrow 429-410 advantage in total yards. The Panthers downfall came in the form of mental mistakes. FIT surrendered three turnovers and committed 14 penalties for 150 yards.
Quarterback Bobby Vega, who completed his final season of eligibility last season, led the Panther offense with 282 yards and three touchdowns as well as one interception on 24 of 33 passing.
Vega’s favorite target in the game was Wayne Saunders II, who hauled in nine catches for 103 yards and a trip to the endzone. Sand carried the rock with his usual authority, garnering 19 carries to pick up 73 yards and a touchdown.
The FIT defense had six players with a sack. FIT received a pair of interceptions, with Keith Lovett II and Vince Perry each picking off the Ave Maria quarterback. Manny Abad was the lone Panther with a fumble recovery in the game.
For Ave Maria, Clayton Uecker went 29 of 48 passing for 323 yards, five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Uecker spread the ball well, with five Gyrene receivers tallying at least three catches and 30 yards.
Karim Bryant was the recipient of three of Uecker’s touchdown passes, while Shawn Evans and Rashad Kelley also recorded a score. Scott Jones was the primary ball carrier for Ave Maria, finishing the game with 94 yards and a trip to pay dirt on 19 carries.
Despite not starting, linebacker Tanner Bowling led Ave Maria with 11 tackles in the game. Linebacker Nick Dorgan and defensive back Eric Durham were each able to pick off a Vega pass.
With the exception of the Bethune-Cookman contest on Sept. 27, all FIT 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 5:30 p.m. All 11 Panther games can also be heard at WFIT.org and the free TuneIn Radio app.
A live video broadcast of Saturday’s contest will be provided online through Stretch Internet, with the stream slated to start at 5:30 p.m. All live video broadcasts and stats for FIT athletics can be found at FloridaTechSports.com/live.