Valdosta State Edges Panthers In Regular Season Finale

By  //  November 16, 2014

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ABOVE: Florida Tech’s 2014 senior class. Florida Tech welcomed No. 25 Valdosta State to town for Senior Day at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium on Saturday night. (Michael Brown image)


BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech thought it had tied the game when Xavier Milton made a leaping catch in the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt.

However, the Panthers were penalized for having an ineligible blocker downfield and Kenny Johnston was unable to make the catch on the second attempt.

Valdosta State recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock, sealing a 31-29 victory Saturday night at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium.

The game marked FIT’s Senior Day, with 12 Panthers donning the Crimson and Gray for the final time in their career.

Steve Englehart
Steve Englehart

“I appreciate the seniors and what they did coming here with a new program,” said head coach Steve Englehart.

“They had the faith to come here not knowing what we were going to do and how we were going to be. Those guys have laid a great foundation.”

The two teams traded field goals to open the game before Mark Cato rushed in from two yards out to give the Panthers an early lead, thoughJosh Davidson’s extra point attempt was blocked to keep the score at 9-3.

Xavier Milton
Xavier Milton

The Blazers claimed the lead with a trio of scoring runs to jump up 24-9 before Milton got behind his defender and hauled in a perfectly lofted 44-yard touchdown toss.

VSU extended the lead on Cedric O’Neal’s third rushing touchdown of the game but the Panthers showed their usual resilience, as Gary Holmes burst through the line and outran everybody for a 44-yard scamper.

Gabe Hughes
Gabe Hughes

Gabe Hughes gave the Panthers a chance, taking a short pass, making a man miss and breaking loose for an 80-yard touchdown but FIT couldn’t complete the comeback.

The long touchdown reception gave Hughes the team lead with four catches for 143 yards, with Milton chipping in four receptions for 105 yards and a score.

Mark Cato
Mark Cato

Holmes topped 100 yards rushing for the first time in his career, tallying 106 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. Cato completed 14 of 34 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns along with an interception.

On the defensive side, Chris Stapleton registered a team-high 12 tackles, including six solo stops and a tackle for loss.

Manny Abad
Manny Abad

Manny Abad forced a Blazers fumble, with fellow corner Leo Alba making the recovery. Additionally, Jake Holsingerrecorded his third blocked punt of the season.

Kaleb Nobles started under center for VSU, completing 19 of 30 passes for 213 yards, including six to Roshmel Young for 92 yards. Austin Scott led the Blazer rushing attack, carrying the ball 18 times for 96 yards and a score.

Duran Lowe led VSU with 10 tackles, while Kenny Murphy and Cooper Lemonds recovered a fumble each. Larry Murphy created the Blazers’ other takeaway, picking off Cato.

“It’s been a good year in a lot of ways,” said Englhart. “It’s the first winning season in school history and we fought tooth and nail for 60 minutes every single game. We made mistakes along the way and we didn’t always play perfect but we always fought, they were a tough bunch.”

The game brings FIT’s 2014 campaign to a close. The second-year program notched a 6-5 record, including going 3-4 in the Gulf South Conference.



• FLORIDA TECH: Josh Davidson 24 yards field goal
• VALDOSTA ST: A. Pistelli 43 yards field goal


• FLORIDA TECH: Mark Cato 2 yards rush, Josh Davidson kick attempt blkd
• VALDOSTA ST: Cedric O’Neal 1 yard rush, A. Pistelli kick attempt good
• VALDOSTA ST: Austin Scott 29 yards rush, A. Pistelli kick attempt good


• VALDOSTA ST: Cedric O’Neal 2 yards rush, A. Pistelli kick attempt good


• FLORIDA TECH: Xavier Milton 44 yards pass, Josh Davidson kick attempt good
VALDOSTA STATE: Cedric O’Neal 21 yards rush, A. Pistelli kick attempt good
• FLORIDA TECH: Gary Holmes 44 yards rush, Josh Davidson kick attempt good
• FLORIDA TECH: Gabe Hughes 80 yards pass for touchd0wn

Senior Tight End, Devin Frutchey, honored during Senior night.
Senior Tight End, Devin Frutchey, honored during Senior night.

ABOVE VIDEO: Mark Cato rushes for 2 yards for the touchdown but Josh Davidson’s kick attempt was blocked.

Heritage High School's band preformed during Florida Tech's halftime show.
Heritage High School’s band preformed during Florida Tech’s halftime show.