PAINESVILLE, Ohio – Precipitation rained down and offense reigned supreme on Saturday afternoon at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium in Painesville, Ohio. Coming out on top was a Lake Erie Storm squad that stuffed the stat sheet with 771 total yards en route to a 63-41 victory over Walsh.
The Storm (3-6, 2-5 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) piled up 349 rushing yards and 422 passing yards in winning at home for the third time in five tries this season. Lake Erie used a pair of lightning-quick offensive surges – one in the first quarter and one in the third – in compiling a program-record 63 points on nine touchdowns. LEC forced five Walsh (3-6, 3-5) turnovers in a game that was dominated by rainy conditions and big plays.
Sophomore running back Anthony Bilal scored four rushing TDs as part of a 27-carry, 159-yard afternoon. Bilal's running was complemented by a Storm aerial assault led by senior quarterback Brendan Gallagher, who went 29-of-35 for 422 yards. He threw four TD passes in game that saw Lake Erie give back most of an early 32-point lead before stepping on the gas in the second half.
The Storm rattled off three quick touchdown drives in succession in the first quarter, as Lake Erie blitzed its way to an early 21-3 lead. Bilal and Gallagher scored rushing TDs that capped off lightning-quick drives the first two times that Lake Erie had the ball. Walsh countered with a Michael Dudics 36-yard field goal. But LEC came right back with a five-play, 65 yard scoring drive. Lake Erie scored its third TD when Gallagher hit a leaping Jamone Chester for a 33-yard TD completion at 6:46 in the first.
That closed out the scoring in the first quarter, but it didn't take LEC long to post more digits on the Britt Stadium scoreboard in the second. Anthony Bilal darted into the end zone 19 seconds into the frame, capping off an effective 79-yard drive for the Storm. That put Lake Erie on top, 28-3. Bilal would go on to rush for 87 yards on 20 carries in the opening half, which was played in a steady autumn rain.
After the Storm defense came through with a three-and-out and a misfire on a fake punt on the Cavaliers' ensuing drive, Lake Erie scored again when Gallagher hit Tommy Jackson for a 31-yard touchdown.
That score – at 13:22 in the first – would be the Storm's last of the half. But Walsh wasn't done yet – the Cavaliers scored 24 unanswered points in the balance of the second, getting three TDs and a field goal. Those late points sent the two soggy squads into their locker rooms at halftime with LEC leading, 35-27.
The two GLIAC foes combined to post 725 yards of total offense (LEC 426, WU 299) in the first half.
Walsh came out strong in the second half, moving the ball deep into Lake Erie territory until a fumble short-circuited the drive at the LEC 10. The Storm took advantage of the Walsh miscue, moving the chains and then scoring when Gallagher hit Jackson in stride for what turned out to be a big 59-yard touchdown.
Leading, 42-27, momentum seemed to be back on the home side, and the Storm. The Green & White ran their lead to 49-27 when Bilal scored his third TD at 8:07 in the third quarter. WU came right back with a big kickoff return and a 42-yard TD drive to cut the LEC lead to 15 points (49-34).
In the balance of the third quarter, Lake Erie traded two touchdowns for one (LEC's scores were on a 10-yard pass from Gallagher to Mike Thomas and a 42-yard TD scamper by Bilal).
After the offensive festival for three quarters – an outburst of 104 combined points – the defenses held sway in the fourth quarter. Neither team managed to score in the fourth, a period dominated by three Lake Erie interceptions and by the Storm grinding out nine minutes-and-51 seconds on the clock.
Lake Erie – which came into the game ranked fourth in NCAA-II total offense at 553.1 yards per contest – notched its second-best single-game output with the 771 total yards. The Storm has tallied 600 yards or more in six of its nine games this season.
Walsh notched 505 yards of offense in the loss. WU quarterback John Fracassa went 25-of-52 for 387 yards to lead the Cavalier offense. Two of his receivers – Aaron Male and Krishawn Hogan – each had 100-yard afternoons, with 12 catches and a pair of TDs between them.
Wingback Tommy Jackson had 10 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns to lead a busy Lake Erie receiving corps. Mike Thomas hauled in seven catches.
Brendan Gallagher had a fine all-around game for LEC. He backed up Bilal's 159 rushing yards with 114 of his own.
But in the end it was Bilal and Gallagher who formed a one-two punch effective enough to post LEC's record numbers.