CANTON, OHIO – The offensive numbers put up by the Lake Erie College football team Saturday night (Oct. 19) at Fawcett Stadium were staggering, but the most prolific performance in school history went for naught as the Storm was stunned in a shootout by host Malone University, falling 55-50.
Lake Erie (2-5, 1-4 GLIAC) churned out a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference single-game record 833 yards of total offense and reached the 50-point mark for the first time this season. Redshirt senior Brendan Gallagher (Aurora, Ohio/Aurora) threw for a single-game school record 563 yards and six touchdowns while sophomore Anthony Bilal (Painesville, Ohio/Riverside) became Lake Erie's all-time leading rusher in the game.
But the Storm needed those efforts that just to keep pace with the Pioneers (1-6, 1-5 GLIAC).
After marching down the field on their opening possession for a touchdown, the Pioneers followed a missed LEC field goal with another long drive, converting a third-and-eight for a 46-yard gain and then getting a 28-yard touchdown pass from Will Szpor to Damien Russell for a 14-0 lead.
The Storm scored late in the first and early in the second, including a 43-yard touchdown run by Bilal that put him over 1,000 yards for the season, to tie the game before the teams then went toe-to-toe for the remainder of the half. A 26-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Kyle Galbraith (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) gave Lake Erie a 24-21 lead with 2:35 left in the first half, but Malone struck back just 10 seconds later for a 65-yard strike from back-up quarterback Brandyn Eckhart, who took over after Szpor was injured late in the second quarter, to Justin Davis for a 27-24 halftime lead.
Gallagher threw 20-yard touchdown passes to redshirt junior Tommy Jackson (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) and junior Aaron Lindgren (Willoughby, Ohio/Willoughby South) in the third quarter, sandwiched around an Eckhardt scoring run and 27-yard pass to Davis, and Malone led 41-37 entering the fourth.
Eckhardt's play-action passing continued to bewild the Storm secondary as he connected with Jordan Phillips for a pair of touchdowns, covering 29- and 63-yards, early in the fourth quarter to give the Pioneers a 55-37 lead.
Lake Erie rallied, needing three scores with just over eight minutes left- and nearly pulled it off. Gallagher threw a six-yard touchdown pass to senior Mike Thomas (McDonald, Ohio/McDonald) – his second of the game – to cap a quick six-play, 70-yard drive in just 1:48. The Storm failed to convert an onside kick attempt, but did manage to force a Malone punt. On the first snap on the next drive, Gallagher connected with Jackson over the middle for a 79-yard scoring strike to get the Storm within one score with just under five minutes to play.
The Pioneers were successfully able to pick up two first downs on their next drive, getting runs by Eckhardt of seven yards on third-and-six and six yards on fourth-and-two, and ran the clock down to 23 seconds before giving the ball back to Lake Erie.
A 36-yard pass from Gallagher to junior Andrew Schickler (Doylestown, Ohio/Chippewa) gave the Storm one last chance with nine seconds left from the Malone 45, but Gallagher's hail mary attempt into the end zone was intercepted by Lucas Haupt.
The Storm's offensive performance bested the long-standing school mark of 687 yards, set in last week's 48-21 win over Notre Dame College, and was the first time any GLIAC team had gone over the 800-yard mark in total offense. The previous league record belonged to Northwood Univeristy when the Timberwolves totaled 753 vs. Wayne State Univeristy in 2004.
Gallagher completed 35-of-42 passes for the aforementioned 563 yards and six touchdowns. The latter two statistics broke the previous marks of 441 and five set by Sean Bedevelsky. Jackson caught nine passes for a career-high 172 yards and two touchdowns while redshirt sophomore Shane VanFletern (Shelby, Mich./Utica) had six catches for a career-best 121 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas caught four passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns while Lindgren had four for 80 and a score. Schickler also caught four passes for 81 yards.
Bilal gained 179 yards on 21 carries – his sixth 100-yard rushing effort of the season – to become the first Lake Erie player to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season and to pass Bedevelsky for first place on the career rushing list. The diminutive powderkeg has gained 1,127 yards this season and 1,982 in just 16 career games.
Eckhardt completed eight-of-12 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns while rushing 11 times for 42 yards and a score. Szpor hit on eight-of-11 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns before exiting the game.
Davis had five receptions for 123 yards and scored three times while Phillips finished with 102 yards on three catches. Davis also led the Pioneers with 80 rushing yards on 14 carries. As a team, Malone finished with 567 total yards.
In a penalty-filled 60 mintues of game action, the Storm was flagged 12 times for 80 yards while the Pioneers drew seven penalties for 70 yards. Lake Erie also committed three turnovers in the game while Malone had no giveaways.
Junior Tanner Wells (Carrollton, Texas/Parish Episcopal) had 12 tackles to lead Lec while Fred Baker, Jr. made a game-high 13 stops to lead Malone.
The Storm will look to bounce back next week when it plays at the University of Findlay Saturday, Oct. 26, at 12 p.m.