Written by Niamani Carlyle-Hollis, Staff Writer
There was a big homecoming showdown on Saturday, as the Blazer football team defeated Florida Tech 39-21 for the last regular season game.
It was a back and forth effort from the beginning of the game as the Blazers and the Panthers battled it out. Within the first three minutes of the game, Blazer wide receiver Chris Anderson showed why he is one of the top dog seniors on the field, as he was able to cover 48 yards after just two receptions and put the first 6 points on the board for the blazers after a 29 yard pass from EJ Hilliard. With a good kick from Andrew Gray the Blazers were up on top 7-0 with a little over 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Three minutes later it was Florida Tech coming back with an answer of their own. After covering 82 yards in six plays, Panther quarterback Mark Cato evened out the scoreboard with a 3-yard carry into the end zone and with the successful kick from Drake Hillman the score was tied 7-7.
Both defenses seemed to tighten up as neither team was able to secure a good possession until around the two minute mark Hilliard was able to drive the ball 43-yards down the field giving Austin Scott the chance to rush the ball in for a 1-yard touchdown putting the Blazers up 13-7. After a failed field goal attempt the Blazers headed into the second quarter with a six point lead.
The Blazers continued to fight hard to keep the Panther offense at bay, but were unsuccessful after Florida Tech’s Antwaun Haynes ran the ball in for a 38-yard touchdown and a good kick from Hillman the Panthers were back on top 14-13 with 10:59 left to go in the first half.
Not in the least bit phased, the Blazers stuck to their game plan and continued to fight back. The Blazer’s resilience paid off right before the half, when Anthony Ingram received the 18-yard pass from Hilliard, the Blazers were back on top heading into the half 20-14.
The second half succeeded in being just as entertaining as the first, as the Panthers came out and put seven points on the board within in the first two minutes of the third quarter putting Florida Tech up 21-20. The Blazers continued to fight back and push through every obstacle Florida Tech threw their way. It was not until late in the third with a little over two minutes left to go in the quarter that the Blazers caught their stride and never looked back. After a 99-yard drive over a span of 13 plays, Hilliard was able to run the ball in for a touchdown off of a 6-yard run to put the Blazers up 26-21.
The Black Swarm continued to pound the Panthers to the ground as Florida Tech was unable to put any more points on the board. The Blazers were not finished yet though as late into the fourth quarter, the Blazer offense pushed the ball downfield for a total of 74-yards, setting the stage for Austin Scott to score off of a 4-yard run to give VSU the 32-21 lead.
VSU decided to pack Florida Tech on up and send them on their way as Raymond Palmer picked off Florida Tech’s last minute effort to make a comeback and ran it back 48 yards. Hilliard and the Blazer offense then drove the ball an additional 12 yards allowing Cedric O’neal to complete the 4-yard run for the touchdown to seal the deal for the Blazers 39-21.
The huge victory gave Valdosta State the 8-2 overall regular season finish and 5-2 Gulf South Conference record, as well as the right to continue on to postseason play.