PAINESVILLE, OHIO – Just like last year's meeting, Saturday's (Oct. 29) game between the Lake Erie College football team and the University of Findlay went down to the final seconds. But unlike 2010's dramatic victory, the Storm couldn't complete the comeback in a 35-31 setback at Jack Britt Memorial Stadium.
After Findlay's (5-3 , 5-2 GLIAC) Clay Belton hit Jaryd Brown for a three yard touchdown with 50 seconds to go to give the Oilers the lead, Lake Erie (1-7, 0-7 GLIAC) mounted a potential game-winning drive. The Storm went 51 yards in eight plays before Jamon McClain ended LEC's hopes with an interception in the end zone to seal the victory.
That the Storm needed a touchdown on its final drive to win was not without controversy. After Brown's touchdown grab Zack Housholder's extra point was block by Lake Erie junior Taylor Leppla (Cambridge, Ohio/Cambridge) and scooped up around the 20-yard line by junior Dezmone Relaford (Cleveland, Ohio/Collinwood/Cuyahoga C.C.) who returned it the length of the field for a defensive two-point conversion.
However, an inadvertent whistle during the play negated Relaford's score. The officiating crew ruled for a retry of the point after and Housholder's kick went through to make the score 35-31, instead of possibly 34-33.
There was plenty of action before that as the team's engaged in a back-and-forth affair reminiscent of last year's 48-45 shootout. The Oilers did it on the ground behind Monterae Williams who rushed for a game-high 175 yards and four touchdowns.
The Storm, meanwhile, did it through the air. Senior receiver Brandon James (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) tied his own school record with 14 receptions and totaled 159 yards and a score. His 19-yard reception early in the fourth quarter tied the game at 28-28. James was the primary target of senior Sean Bedevelsky, who completed 29-of-38 passes for 326 yards and also ran for a score.
Findlay took the opening kickoff and quickly moved down the field, going 57 yards on five plays – all runs by Williams, who capped the drive with a 20-yard scamper for a 7-0 lead just 1:56 into the contest.
After the Storm wasted a school-record 70-yard kickoff return by freshman Ramon Alexander (West Bloomfield, Mich./Walled Lake) and couldn't convert on its first drive, LEC tied the game at 7-7 on its next possession with a seven-yard run by Bedevelsky.
Williams plunged in from a yard on the Oilers next drive to make it 13-7 after one quarter. The teams traded short touchdown runs in the second. Williams had a two-yard run that made the score 20-7 before senior Patrick Lunney (Mount Shasta, Calif./Mount Shasta/College of the Siskiyous) rushed the ball in from a yard out to make it 20-14 heading into halftime.
Freshman Rod Smith (Bartow, Fla./Bartow), who led the Storm with 72 yards on 16 carries, took it in from two yards out on the final play of a 14-play drive to open the second-half scoring and give Lake Erie its first lead of the day at 21-20.
Williams' fourth touchdown, a one-yard run late in the third, and ensuing two-point conversion pass from Belton to Seth White gave the Oilers a 28-21 lead. Lake Erie responded with a 10-play, 86-yard drive in 4:22 to tie it on James' aforementioned grab.
After Housholder's 40-yard field goal attempt hit the upright and fell short, the Storm drove down and connected on a 36-yard field goal by junior Sam Marcotte (Chardon, Ohio/Chardon) , who had earlier missed from 23 and 42 yards out, to go ahead 31-28.
Aided by a pass interference penalty and a big fourth-down conversion, the Oilers came right back and drove inside the Storm five-yard line before Belton hit Brown for what proved to be the game-winning points.
On that drive, Brown caught three passes, including the two biggest of the drive – a five-yard reception on fourth-and-two, and the touchdown.
Lake Erie outgained Findlay 466-404. In addition to the big game by James, whose 159 yards were second most only to his 183 in 2008 against Kentucky Wesleyan, classmate David Romeo (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North) caught six passes for 82 yards.
Belton was 18-of-28 passing for 212 yards for Findlay. Brown and White each caught six passes.
Defensively, Desmond Reed (Warren, Ohio/Warren G. Harding) had a career- and game-high 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, to lead the Storm. Isaiah Ballard also made eight solo tackles and led Findlay with 10 total stops.
The Storm is on the road the next two weeks, starting next Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29, at Ohio Dominican University. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. in Columbus.