Florida Tech’s Historic Season Ends In Playoff Defeat, Falls To North Greenville 27-13
By Florida Tech // November 19, 2016
Florida Tech Season Ends Historic Year 8-3 (5-2)
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – After a defensive struggle over the initial 30 minutes of action, three second half turnovers was the difference for Florida Tech as it was handed a 27-13 loss to North Greenville in the first round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs at Florida Tech Panther Stadium.
“It was a tough, tough game against a very good North Greenville football team,” stated head coach Steve Englehart. “They are very well coached and didn’t make any mistakes and that’s why they came away with the win. I thought overall our defense played well besides giving up some third downs in key situations.
“A lot of the credit should go to their ability to control the clock against us. We didn’t get a lot of chances to get our offense rolling. North Greenville kept everything in front of them defensively and didn’t allow us to get any big plays on them.”
The Panther offense found it difficult to build any momentum in the defeat. FIT was outgained 394-353 in the matchup and limited to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Panthers struggled on third downs, going 3-for-12 while NGU went 8-for-15.
Brandon Ziarno made his first career start behind center for the Panthers, splitting time with backup Ryan Singer. The two quarterbacks combined for just 12 completions in the game, Ziarno finishing 4-of-9 for 56 yards and one interception, while Singer accounted for 128 yards through the air on 8-of-13 passing and two picks.
Antwuan Haynes led FIT on the ground and through the air, accumulating 94 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving on two catches. Trevor Sand added 51 yards on 14 rushes. Simon Williams brought in three passes for 39 yards, while Wayne Saunders II caught three passes for 22 yards.
The Panthers had a hard time containing Crusaders’ quarterback Will Hunter, who completed 18-of-29 for 247 yards and two scores. NGU’s Tracy Scott ran for 126 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown and Javon Smith amassed 101 yards receiving and two scores on six receptions.
Chris Stapleton led the FIT defense with a team-high seven tackles, including four of the solo variety. Four players, Tyler Rosenblatt, Trai Cadore, Skylar Sheffield and Andrew Adair, ended with five tackles in the contest.
NGU finished off an 83 yard drive with a 26 yard field goal by Matt Gravely to open the scoring with 1:06 left in the first quarter. FIT tied the ball game on its next possession with Kyle Gullikson knocking in a 31 yarder at the 11:52 of the second. The score remained 3-3 until the buzzer rang on the first half.
Ziarno was picked off by Brandon Burger on the Panthers’ opening drive of the second half, leading to a four yard touchdown run by Scott to give NGU a 10-3 advantage. FIT responded with a 13 play, 43 yard drive on its next possession, which ended in a 42 yard field goal by Gullikson to cut the deficit to four.
Hunter’s 13 yard conversion to J. Smith extended NGU’s lead to 17-6 with 2:12 left in the third quarter. Singer then led the Panthers on an 11 play, 57 yard drive into the Crusaders’ red zone but had his pass intercepted by K.J. McDonald on the NGU 17.
Gravely’s 36 yarder on the ensuing possession pushed the advantage to two touchdowns with 7:19 remaining on the clock. Singer bounced back from the turnover and brought the Panthers to within seven points, with 4:28 left in the game, on his one yard scamper into the end zone.
Needing a stop, FIT allowed the Crusaders to drive 75 yards, on just five plays, and score on a 51 yard pass and catch from Hunter to J. Smith to build the lead back to 14. Singer would lead the Panthers down the field again but was picked off by Nigel Gay on the NGU 15 yard line. Hunter would take three kneels and run off the clock, putting a close to the Panthers’ season.