Florida Tech and the coaching staff will now turn their focus on preparing for the next season
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Florida Tech football head football coach Steve Englehart and Panther players speak after the Panthers defeated Shorter 42-3 on Saturday.
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The Florida Tech football team ended the 2019 season on a high note as the Panthers cruised to a 42-3 Senior Day victory over Shorter on a chilly Saturday afternoon at Panther Stadium.
After celebrating the team’s 18 senior athletes prior to kickoff, the Crimson & Gray continued the good emotions en route to a lopsided win in the regular-season finale.
Shorter had no answer for the Florida Tech offense early on as the Panthers scored touchdowns on their first five possessions of the game.
On defense, Tech completely shut down the Hawks, who were limited to 1-of-12 on third downs and managed just one pass completion for 34 yards the entire game.
It did not take long for the scoring wave to begin as Drezyn Parson glided to the end zone from 13 yards out to put Tech up 7-0 just 1:14 into the game.
After stopping Shorter in five plays on the next drive, the Panthers regained possession and proceeded to put together the longest possession in program history for total plays, a 17-play, 86-yard drive that spanned 9:04.
Later in that record-breaking drive, the Panthers found themselves with short distance to the goal line, a perfect situation to let one of the “big boys” take it in for the score.
Who better to do it than redshirt-senior offensive lineman Michael Ruess, a former full-back. It took three tries but Ruess eventually plunged in from one-yard out to put Florida Tech up 14-0 with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
The Crimson & Gray found the end zone three more times in the second quarter, all off precision passes from redshirt-freshman quarterback Mike Diliello.
Diliello found Derrick Wright on a 10-yard strike at the 9:41 mark of the period. He then hit Buck Watkins for a 23-yard touchdown with less than five minutes to go in the quarter before slinging it to Kenny Hiteman for an eight-yard score with just 49 seconds left before halftime.
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Space Coast Daily’s Chris Bonanno reports live from Florida Tech Panther Stadium after Florida Tech defeats Shorter 42-3 in college football action.
The Hawks finally got onto the board with a 27-yard field goal by Nicholas Pope as time expired in the second quarter.
He missed his first opportunity on the kick, which would have sent Shorter to the locker room scoreless but a penalty was called for illegal jumping over the line on the Panthers, lessening the distance for Pope. He converted the extra chance to get his team some points before halftime.
Both teams struggled to build much momentum on offense in the second half. The Panthers did not score on any of their first five drives after halftime.
Late in the fourth quarter, Curtiss Thies pinned the Hawks down on their own 1-yard line. One play later, the Hawks bobbled the snap and the ball dribbled in front of senior Mac Massengill who pounced on it for his first career defensive touchdown.
The score put the Panthers up 42-3 with 4:20 to go in the game, which they held onto for the season-ending win.
Florida Tech finishes with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-5 mark in the Gulf South Conference but, most importantly, the Panthers ended the year on a two-game win streak.
The Panthers outgained Shorter 430-132, including 209-34 through the air and 221-98 on the ground. Florida Tech went 8-of-12 on third downs in the win and had 33:08 of possession time.
After completing 17-of-18 for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, Diliello finished 22-of-26 for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
He also rushed for 55 net yards in the contest while Parson was the team’s leading rusher with 68 yards on nine carries. Senior Marshawn Gordon had 45 yards on four carries in his collegiate finale.
Derrick Wright was one of five Panthers with three receptions in the game, taking his for 42 yards and a score. Buck Watkins had 36 yards and a score on three catches and Brian Spurgeon made three receptions for 35 yards.
Seniors Miles Kelly and Simon Williams each had three receptions in their final game as well, while Max Linder and Robert Foy hauled in two catches apiece.
Senior John McClure led Florida Tech with eight tackles including 2.0 tackles for loss. Grad student T.J. Harrell picked up six tackles, including one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss in his final collegiate appearance.
Evan Thompson recorded five tackles with two sacks, while senior Marquise Lewis tallied four tackles. Senior Chad Simmons and Jeff Zulma each registered a sack in the win.
Senior Curtiss Thies punted the ball twice in the game for 76 yards including one placed inside the 20.
Florida Tech and the coaching staff will now turn their focus on preparing for the next season of Panther football in 2020, including finding athletes to replace the 18 seniors who went out with a win in front of their home crowd on Saturday.