HILLSDALE, MICH. -- Playing a nationally-ranked prohibitive favorite on its home turf, the Lake Erie College football team went toe-to-toe with No. 12 Hillsdale College on Saturday (Sept. 25), but the Storm's upset bid came up just short in a 42-37 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference thriller at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium in Hillsdale.
Lake Erie (0-4, 0-3 GLIAC) racked up 476 yards of offense in the game, but needed one more as a fourth-and-two attempt at midfield with just over a minute left came up a yard short, allowing the Chargers (3-1, 2-1 GLIAC) to escape with their second straight victory.
Junior quarterback Sean Bedevelsky (Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick) threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns, completing 20-of-27 throws, while rushing for a game-high 114 yards and another score to lead Lake Erie. Junior receiver Brandon James (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) caught five of those passes for 92 yards and two of the touchdowns.
The Storm proved to be a difficult out from the get-go, taking the opening kickoff and driving to the Hillsdale 20 before the wind pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Sam Marcotte (Chardon, Ohio/Chardon) wide right.
Hillsdale responded by showing why it is the top ranked offense in the conference. Mike Blanchard took the hand off on an end around on the Chargers first play from scrimmage and raced 43 yards to the Lake Erie 20. Six plays later Joe Glendening plunged in from the one for a 7-0 lead.
Sophomore Andre Wells (Cleveland, Ohio/Villa Angela St. Joseph) returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards that set up a Bedevelsky nine-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. But the lead would be short-lived. Following a 31-yard Nick Hixson return, Glendening went 42-yards on the Chargers first play for a 14-7 lead.
Brad Spencer's three-yard run to cap an 11-play, 75 yard drive made it 21-7 early in the second quarter. The Storm answered with 10-yard strike from Bedevelsky, who hit on 10-of-11 passes in the first half, to James in the back of the end zone to cut it to 21-14 with nine minutes to go before halftime.
Troy Weatherhead, the Division II leader in passing efficiency, completed passes of 23 yards to Andre Holmes and Cam White to set up an 11-yard scoring toss to Matt Terhune for the Chargers' fourth TD of the first half.
Freshman Chris Brown rushed for 37 yards and caught a key 11-yard pass on the ensuing drive, picking up the final 15 on the ground to make the halftime score 28-21.
The back-and-forth play continued in the second half. A Hillsdale drive deep into Storm territory was halted by the first career interception from sophomore cornerback Cameron Whitner (Westerville Ohio/Olentangy Liberty). That set the stage for a school-record 47-yard field goal by Marcotte to make it a four-point game.
The Chargers failed to convert on their next possession, missing a 25-yard field goal, but came up with one of the biggest plays of the game just four plays later. After Bedevelsky rushed for 22-yards on a third down-and-eight to set the Storm up with a first down at their own 34, Joe Vear scooped up a Lake Erie fumble on the next play and raced 29 yards to put Hillsdale up two scores, 35-24, just over a minute into the fourth quarter.
However, the momentum swing didn't last long, as Lake Erie responded with a nine-play, 76-yard drive in 3:52 to make the score 35-31 after Bedevelsky and James connected on a 37-yard scoring play.
But as was the theme of the game, Hillsdale made one final big play. Facing third-and-four on his one 37, Weatherhead threw deep down the middle of the field and hit Blanchard in stride for a 63-yard touchdown pass that once again pushed the lead to 11.
After a desperation heave by Bedeveslky was intercepted at the one, the Storm defense came up with its first three-and-out of the game and forced a Charger punt with 4:53 to go from the Hillsdale two-yard line and appeared to potentially set the Storm offense up in good field position.
But a wild hop over the head of returner Bryan Thomas (Pompano Beach, Fla./Blanche Ely) and roll resulted in an 81-yard punt by Andrew Wilburn.
Undeterred, Bedevelsky drove the team 83 yards in 10 plays, hitting junior David Krzys (Ashtabula, Ohio/Lakeside) for 17-yards on fourth-and-10 and then hitting junior Patrick Lunney (Mount Shasta, Claif./Mount Shasta/College of Siskiyous) over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, resulting in a five-point deficit.
A nifty onside kick by Marcotte was recovered just over the 10-yard barrier by James and the Storm had a chance for the upset with just over three minutes left. But Ben Karaba stopped Kameron Alexander (Akron, Ohio/Buchtel) just short on a four-and-two to seal the win.
Blanchard had four catches for 105 yards and Holmes caught a game-high six passes for 78 yards fr the Chargers. Weatherhead finished 18-of-23 passing for 272 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Glendening carried 19 times for 113 yards and two scores.
Behind Bedeveslky, the Storm outrushed Hillsdale 215-190. Senior outside linebacker Garrett McMullin (Brokfield, Ohio/Brookfield/Clarion) led the Storm defense with eight tackles, including a pair of quarterback sacks. Junior linebacker Gus Armbruster (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton) also had a sack while junior defensive back Kenneth Glenn (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights) shared team honors with eight stops.
In addition to the fumble recovery and return, Vear led all players with a game-high 16 tackles.
The Storm hosts Ferris State University next Saturday, Oct. 2, for Homecoming/Alumni Weekend in Painesville. Kick-off at Britt Stadium is set for 1 p.m.
GAME NOTES: This was the third time this season Lake Erie outgained its opponents in total yardage. However, the Storm is 0-3 in those games… Bedevelsky rushed for 100 yards in a game for the third time in his career. His 19 carriers are a career high and he also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for his career (1,075) becoming just the second Storm player to accomplish that feat… James caught two touchdowns in a game for the third time in his career… the 53-yard return by Wells was the longest kickoff return in LEC history… Brown rushed for a touchdown for the second straight week… Lunney, who also scored for the second straight game, caught his first career TD pass… this was the 12th time Lake Erie rushed for more than 200 yards in a game and the 11th time the Storm totaled 400 yards or more on offense… Lake Erie falls to 0-2 all-time against NCAA Division II ranked teams…McMulin set a career-high with two sacks… Armbruster's sack was his team-leading third of the season… junior David Romeo (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North) surpassed the 2,000 mark in all-purpose yards for his career… the Storm has dropped five straight overall dating back to last season.