PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Redshirt junior Brendan Gallagher (Aurora, Ohio/Aurora), making his second career start at quarterback, accounted for four touchdowns and the Storm defense forced three turnovers as the Lake Erie College football team won its second straight game, defeating Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference newcomer Malone University 35-24 on Homecoming/Alumni Weekend Saturday (Oct. 13) at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium.
The Storm (2-5, 2-4 GLIAC) jumped out to a big lead in the first half for the second straight week. And, for the second straight week, overcame a sluggish third quarter to respond with a pair of late scores to pull out the victory.
A week ago on the road, Lake Erie led Notre Dame College 24-10 at halftime only to see the Falcons come back and take a 28-24 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Storm scored twice in the final period to win 38-35 for their first victory of the season.
It was eerily similar this week against the Pioneers (1-5, 1-5 GLIAC). Gallgher threw touchdown passes of 36 yards to redshirt freshman Tyler Lindgren (Willoughby, Ohio/Willoughby South) and 10 yards to sophomore Cole Gordon (Naples, Fla./Naples/Georgia Southern) and ran for a one-yard score as the Storm built a 21-7 halftime lead.
Malone scored on three straight possessions to start the second half to take the lead. After recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Pioneers got a 26-yard field goal from Jake Hardy and then forced back-to-back three-and-outs from the Storm offense and converted those into touchdowns. Will Szpor tossed a 27-yard pass to Justin McLean and Steven Niewiedzial ran one in from five yards out for a 24-21 lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
However, the Storm showed its resiliency and came right back to finally answer the second-half splurge of the visitors. Redshirt freshman Anthony Kukwa (Perry, Ohio/Perry/Ball State) took an option pitch and rumbled 52-yards down the sideline to set up the Storm offense inside the Malone 20-yard line. Three plays later Gallagher took it in on a keeper from two-yards out to give the Storm back the lead.
Following a Malone punt, Lake Erie marched 68 yards on 13 plays in 6:51 with freshman Brendan Phenix (Toledo, Ohio/Maumee) carrying the ball five straight times to end the drive, finishing it off with a one-yard run that put the Storm up 11.
The reigning GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week, sophomore Tanner Wells (Carrollton, Texas/Parish Episcopal), picked off a pass for the second week in a row on Malone's next drive and the Storm forced a punt on the Pioneers' final possession of the game.
Just like in the win against Notre Dame when the Storm got the ball back and ran off the final 4:41 to seal the victory, Lake Erie ran the final 4:03 off the clock this week, sealing it on Phenix's 38-yard run deep into Malone territory that set the Storm up to take a knee on the final two snaps.
Lake Erie outgained Malone 398-305, picking up 293 yards on the ground. In the past two weeks, the Storm ground game has picked up 613 yards rushing. Phenix led the way with 145 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries – his second 100-yard game of the season. Classmate Anthony Bilal (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) added 62 on 15 carries and Gallagher carried 18 times for 43 yards and the two TDs.
Gallagher, who improved to 2-0 as a starter in his career, completed just six passes in 14 attempts, but totaled 105 yards and the two TDs. Lindgren caught two for 45 yards and sophomore Tommy Jackson (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) also caught two for 42 yards.
Szpor was 15-of-32 yards passing for 204 yards with a touchdown and one interception. Reggie Terrell ran for 57 yards on 12 attempts and Tyler Billie caught five passes for 41 yards. McLean ran twice for 25 yards and caught four passes for 68.
Wells led the Storm in tackles for the second straight week, making eight solo stops and nine total, including a sack. The Storm defense got to Szpor in the backfield four times. Redshirt freshman Austin Hoeflich (Fredericktown, Ohio/Fredericktown) made seven tackles and had a sack. Freshman DB Xavier Dowdell (Cleveland, Ohio/Ginn Academy) had the team's other interception.
Demarco Donaldson led Malone with a game-high 18 tackles. James Benedix had 11 stops and a sack.
The Storm looks to continue its winning streak next Saturday, Oct. 20, when it hosts the University of Findlay at 1 p.m.