INSIDE THE HUDDLE: Event Previews Florida Tech Panthers 2016 Football Season
By Steve Wilson // July 31, 2016
hosted by FIT President T. Dwayne McCay
ABOVE VIDEO: Friday Night Locker Room and Space Coast Daily Sports Anchor Steve Wilson talks with Panther head football coach Steve Englehart about the upcoming season during the Inside the Huddle event held at Florida Tech.
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Florida Tech Panthers held its annual “Inside the Huddle” Reception and Dinner Saturday evening in the Hartley Room on the Florida Tech campus, hosted by President T. Dwayne McCay.
The event began with the invocation by Athletic Director Bill Jurgens and Mitch Praxl was the night’s MC.
The keyword of the night was “optimism.” The Panthers are coming off the 2015 season with a 7-4 record, one win shy of making the playoffs.
With an abundance of talent returning, the future does indeed look bright. So bright that President McCay boldly predicted at the Gulf South Conference President’s meeting that the Panthers were going to win the conference championship in 2016.
Panther head coach Steve Englehart gave an overview on the brief history of Florida Tech football and spoke with passion about the importance of players stepping up and taking ownership of the team, about becoming “true” team leaders.
According to Englehart, the players finally did that after a heartbreaking loss last year at North Alabama. Once the team leaders on the Panthers took charge, and started to hold each other accountable, they reeled off six consecutive victories, among them a 28-26 defeat of the number one team in the nation, West Georgia.
Englehart introduced his coaching staff and key individuals that have helped the Panthers program from Day 1. Along with Englehart, President McCay gave a glowing report on how far the Panthers have come in such a short time.
Eight of the 29 returning seniors on the team were in attendance. Among them were two of the night’s speakers, Kenny Johnston and Chris Stapleton who both gave heart-warming, and at times humorous, talks about what it means to be a Panther and how it was in the early days.
Both players are optimistic about the 2016 season, and, why not? Florida Tech returns their veteran starting QB, Junior Mark Cato. Despite injuries throughout the season, Cato threw for more than 2,000 yards and 19 TDs.
Cato is joined in the backfield by a pair of running backs in senior Trevor Sand, and last year’s conference offensive freshman of the year Antwuan Haynes.
The power of Sand and speed of Haynes make them capable of scoring from anywhere on the field at any time. Returning senior Kenny Johnston was the leading receiver last year with almost 800 yards and 10 TDs.
On the defensive side of the ball, most of the leading tacklers are returning, including Stapleton, Skylar Sheffield, Nate McDowell, Trai Cadore, Andrew Adair and Tevin Kirkland.
The season gets underway on Sept. 3 as the Panthers play at Newberry, S.C. Florida Tech will then host Mississippi College in its first home game of the year on Sept. 10.
There is reason for optimism if you’re a Florida Tech football fan. The Panthers have as much talent as any team in the conference, one of the very best coaches in the nation and continue to improve every year.
Yes, this could be the year of the Panther!
Season ticket orders are being accepted online by clicking here, or over the phone through the FIT ticket office at 321-674-6228.
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