Fudge, Opportunistic Defense Lead Panthers Through Storm, 38-30
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Dominican's football team scored 31 unanswered points but needed to hold on late to fend off Lake Erie, 38-30, Saturday afternoon in a GLIAC contest at Panther Field.
The Storm had rallied from a 38-14 deficit in the second half with two fourth quarter touchdowns, converting both two-point tries, but their onside kick with 54 seconds sailed through the hands of one of their receivers and out of bounds, allowing ODU to kneel out the game.
With the victory, the Panthers moved back over .500 on the season at 5-4 (4-4 GLIAC), while the Storm fell to 1-8 (0-8 GLIAC).
Senior quarterback Jeremy Fudge (Eaton, Ohio) accounted for five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and ODU's defense and special teams forced four turnovers, including two in a pivotal 44-second stretch at the start of the third quarter that resulted in Panther touchdowns. Leading 17-7 at the break, sophomore a strip-sack by sophomore Garrett Wilcox (Streetsboro, Ohio) of Lake Erie quarterback Sean Bedevelsky set up the ODU offense on the Storm six, and two plays Fudge ran it in to put ODU on top 24-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, freshman Nikko Tanksley (Reynoldsburg, Ohio) delivered a hit on Storm return man Desmond Reed, knocking the ball free. After a scramble, classmate Grant Jones (Washington Court House, Ohio) picked it up at the Lake Erie 34-yard line. On ODU's first play, Fudge rolled left and hit junior Tyler Maddox (Lewistown, Ohio) streaking down the far sideline for the score to make it 31-7 just 1:12 into the second half.
Lake Erie answered with a touchdown drive on its ensuing possession and tried an onside kick, but touched the ball before it traveled 10 yards, allowing the Panthers to start their third straight drive inside Storm territory. Facing a fourth-and-14 from the 29, Fudge connected with senior Tyler Purcell (Franklin, Ohio) in the front corner of the end zone, as Purcell held on after a full extension dive, to make it 38-14 with 7:04 left in the third.
Neither team cracked the scoring column again in the third, but the Storm threatened with a 78-yard drive early in the fourth. Lake Erie reached the Panther 10, but Bedevelsky missed on third and fourth down throws as junior Kevin Guthrie (Gahanna, Ohio) broke up the second pass to cause a turnover on downs with 11:12 left.
ODU, though, picked up just one first down and punted, which was returned to the Panther 34, and the Storm scored on the next play to make it 38-22. The teams then swapped punts, and Lake Erie went on a nine-play, 90-yard drive, capped off by a 32-yard TD with 54 ticks left for the final margin.
The Storm put the first points of the day on the board in the first quarter, moving 55 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead with 4:54 left in the first. ODU's offense, limited to just 34 yards in the opening frame, finally got untracked in the second, with Fudge completing a pair of third down throws to senior tight end Zach Furlong (Xenia, Ohio) and another to sophomore Bylal Humphrey (Columbus, Ohio) to move the Panthers into the red zone. Sophomore Ronnel Spates (Cleveland, Ohio) had a 15-yard run to the goal line, and Fudge kept it himself on the next play to tie the score at seven with 11:56 left in the second.
After a three-and-out by Lake Erie, the Panthers moved into the Storm red zone again before settling for a 21-yard field goal by senior Chris Vortkamp (Cincinnati, Ohio) to take a 10-7 lead. Lake Erie turned the ball over inside the ODU 20 with 3:03 to go before the break, as junior Joe Richter (Fairfield, Ohio) recovered a Storm fumble, and it took the Panthers just six plays to cover 80 yards. Senior Mike Noffsinger (West Branch, Mich.) had a 40-yard run down the far sideline, then scored a few plays later on a 17-yard swing pass into the flat as he made one cut into the middle of the field for the score.
Lake Erie moved to the ODU 25 before half, but missed wide on a field goal attempt to preserve the Panthers' 10-point cushion at the break.
The Storm held a 447-365 advantage in total yards, but ODU – aided by good field position all day, with an average drive start of its own 41 – churned out a balanced attack with 188 yards rushing and 177 passing. Noffsinger had his third straight 100-yard game with 122 yards on 25 carries, cracking the century mark on the season (1,030 yards). He's the first back in school history to run for more than 1,000 yards in a single-season.
Spates and Humphrey combined for 46 yards on 10 carries, while Purcell (five catches, 65 yards) and Maddox (two catches, 62 yards) paced the aerial attack. Fudge finished 14-of-23 passing for 177 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
The defense was led by sophomore Justin Bell (Groveport, Ohio), who registered a career-high 14 tackles, and freshman Cody Culbertson (Galloway, Ohio), who had a career-best 13 stops and his first career interception. Junior Eisen Hardy (Pickerington, Ohio) had nine tackles and senior James Dews (Marlboro, Md.) had eight as well for a Panther unit that has now forced nine turnovers in its past two games.
Ohio Dominican will look to extend its winning streak to three straight next Saturday as the Panthers hit the road for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Ashland.
Contact: Scott Miles