LISTEN LIVE: Florida Tech Panthers Take On Benedict College Tigers in South Carolina
By Daniel Supraner, Florida Tech Athletics // September 1, 2018
PANTHERS OPEN THEIR SIXTH FOOTBALL SEASON at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia
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BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech kicks off the 2018 football season this Saturday when they travel to Columbia, South Carolina to face the Benedict College Tigers in the season-opener for both schools.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.
Following a 5-6 season last season, the Panthers return numerous core players return for the Panthers this season on both sides of the ball.
On offensive, the Crimson and Gray bring back junior quarterback Trent Chmelik behind center. The Clearwater, Florida native appeared in five games a season ago. He completed 34-for-51 passes with 487 yards and six touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 79 yards and two scores in 2017. A true technician and leader on the field, Chmelik is primed to have a big year for the Panthers.
“Trent has done a really nice job of staying committed to learning the offense and continuing to develop himself within the offense,” said head coach Steve Englehart.
“His knowledge of what the defense is trying to do and how he can get us out of bad plays and into good plays has improved. I also believe his intermediate pass game has improved.”
Chmelik’s successful transition to a starting role will be made all the easier this season, as behind him returns one of the top running backs in all of Division II, Antwuan Haynes.
Haynes is someone defensive coordinators in the GSC have game planned against for the past three years. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native’s 2,665 career rushing yards and 20 rush touchdowns are second-most in program history. Haynes 6.1 yards per carry average will keep the defense honest in their coverage and provide Chmelik and the coaching staff more options to run with.
“The strength of our offense is that we can be balanced,” Englehart said. “We have good backs and receivers but the offensive line really makes those things happen in regard to being balanced.”
There is a lot of experience and talent on the Panthers’ defense this season. Led by All-American Adonis Davis and All-GSC selection J.T. Hassell, the defense should cause a lot of headaches for the opposition in 2018. Sophomore linebacker Evan Thompson is one to keep an eye on as well, as he ranked second on the team with 52 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss last season.
An influx of speedy defensive backs to the roster this year, including Malachi Timblerlake, Tyrone Cromwell and Xavier Story, will give Florida Tech a lot more options on defense this season.
Englehart believes “the strength of our defense is similar (to the offense) this season. We can be balanced and use different personnel groupings to get the best guys on the field for the specific situation.”
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MEET THE OPPONENT: BENEDICT
Florida Tech and Benedict are set to square off for the first time on the gridiron. BC is picked to finish second in the East Division of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at the SIAC Football Media Day. The Tigers received two first-place votes in the poll, a year after finishing with a 7-2 record last season and tying atop the east division with a 5-1 conference record.
The Tigers return seven starters from one of the top defenses in the country last season. Benedict ranked in the Top 10 in the nation in rushing offense (88.8), total defense (270.2), sacks (3.67) and tackles for loss (10.3), while also holding opposing offenses to just 17.2 points per game, good for 16th in DII in 2017.
BC had five players named to the 2018 Preseason All-SIAC team. Four players were tabbed Preseason First Team All-SIAC, led by two-time All-SIAC offensive lineman Justin Brown. Defensive lineman Charles Williams, defensive back Travionte Brown and linebacker Xavier George headline the defensive selections. Offensive lineman Craig Hinson picked up a second-team nod.
George guided BC defensively, making 48 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Robert Cummings is next in line with 44 total tackles, including 1.5 TFL and seven pass breakups.
Trini Charlton led the Tigers in rushing a season ago with 377 yards and two touchdowns on 74 carries. Dominique Harris is back under center after a season in which through for 631 yards and three touchdowns over five games. However, Harris did most of his damage on the ground where he racked up 188 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns.
Englehart believes the Panthers need to focus on the fundamentals if they want to be successful on Saturday.
“We need to do the basics,” said Englehart. “Defense must tackle well and make Benedict earn what they get. Offensively, we need to be patient and let the game come to us. If we do that big plays will happen for us. Field position plays a big part in the game, and obviously Special Teams is a big factor there.”
HEAD COACH STEVE ENGLEHART
Head coach Steve Englehart enters his sixth season as head coach at Florida Tech. He has guided the Panthers to a 31-25 record during his tenure, including an appearance in the NCAA Division II Football Championship Playoff in 2016. Eighteen different players have earned All-America accolades over the course of the program’s first five seasons, including talented defensive lineman, Adonis Davis, who has gathered All-America honors from seven different publications since the end of the 2017 season.
SEASON-OPENERS UNDER ENGLEHART
Florida Tech opens the 2018 campaign on Saturday, Sept. 1, in Columbia, South Carolina at Benedict College. The Panthers are 4-1 under head coach Steve Englehart in season-openers and 2-0 when opening the campaign on the road. Overall, Florida Tech has outscored opponents, 188-84, in openers including a 44-0 dismantling of Virginia-Lynchburg last year. Englehart’s only season-opening loss came in a 31-28 defeat to Newberry to start the 2015 season.
FLORIDA TECH RECEIVES PRESEASON VOTES
For the first time in program history, the Florida Tech football team is receiving votes in the AFCA Division II Preseason Ranking. The Panthers picked up 36 total points in the voting to be featured in the poll. Six of FIT’s opponents this season are either ranked or receiving votes in the AFCA poll, including five GSC rivals – No. 2 West Florida, No. 12 West Alabama, No. 19 West Georgia, Delta State (RV) and Valdosta State (RV) – and Wingate (RV).
PANTHERS PICKED SIXTH IN GULF SOUTH PRESEASON COACHES POLL
Florida Tech is picked to finish sixth in the 2018 Preseason All-Gulf South Conference Poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches. The Panthers received 36 points in the poll, while West Alabama (62) is picked to repeat as league champions. West Florida, coming off an NCAA national runner-up finish in 2017, is picked second followed by West Georgia (44), Delta State (41), Valdosta State (38), Florida Tech, North Greenville (24), Mississippi College (16) and Shorter (8).
FLORIDA TECH PLACES FOUR ON ALL-GSC PRESEASON TEAM
Four Panthers, Adonis Davis, Romell Guerrier, J.T. Hassell and Antwuan Haynes were selected to the Preseason All-GSC team by the league’s head coaches. Davis garnered First Team All-GSC laurels after recording 59 total tackles, including 40 solo stops, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick in 2017, in addition to setting program single-season records for sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (19).
Guerrier, a Second Team All-GSC selection last year, caught 37 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns. Hassell, who earned All-GSC Second Team honors last season following a season in which he produced 78 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception. Haynes joined Davis on the All-GSC First Team last year after rushing for 1,035 yards and seven scores on 196 carries and averaging 110.5 all-purpose yards per game.
ADONIS DAVIS NAMED A PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA
Senior defensive lineman Adonis Davis has been selected a Preseason First Team All-America by D2Football.com, as well as a Preseason All-America by College Football America. A product out of Columbus, Ohio, Davis earned numerous honors after a breakout season in 2017, in which he set school records for the most tackles for loss (19) and sacks (7.5) in a single season. Following the conclusion of last season, Davis was named a Street & Smith’s Division II First Team All-America, Associated Press (AP) First Team All-America, American Football Coaches Association (AFC A) Second Team All-America, Don Hansen Football Honorable Mention All-America, and a D2Football.com Honorable Mention All-America.
FOUR SELECTED TO GSC TOP NEWCOMERS LIST
Four Florida Tech newcomers, Tyrone Cromwell (Jr., DB, Clarion), Max Linder (Gr., TE, Middle Tennessee State), Damien McGee (Jr., WR, Presbyterian) and Malachi Timberlake (Jr., DB, ASA College were named to the GSC’s Top Newcomers’ List. All four are expected to be major contributors in 2018 for the Statesmen.
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