Lancers steal Friday night spotlight

For the second straight year, the Leaside Lancers stole the show at East York Collegiate’s annual Friday Night Lights game.

With more than 2,000 fans packing the grandstands and lining the playing field, the Lancers trounced the Goliaths, 35-7, on October 8.

Leaside was led by quarterback Michael Gallagher, who scrambled for three touchdowns, while picking apart the East York defence with multiple mid-range passes.

The Lancers, (2-1), put on an offensive clinic, controlling the ball for several long scoring drives, while playing tight efficient defence.

Running back Mike Williams looked solid, finding many holes in the Goliaths’ back-field, averaging more than five yards per carry and scoring a touchdown.

The blowout was unexpected after Leaside scored only six points in an 8-6 loss to Northern Secondary their previous game.

“We got all of our points on defence in our last game, so it was nice to see the offence really come together,” said Lancers coach Jim Georgiadis.  “Usually we’re close rivals with East York, they’re a tough team. This was a big win and that’s two years in a row we’ve beaten them now.”

At last year’s Friday night event, the Lancers managed a 10-2 victory in a much closer game.  Previously, East York had won the first four meetings under the temporary flood-lights.

However, this time around, East York, (1-3), struggled defensively.  Leaside looked like the more organized, and polished team from start to finish.

“This team has been together a while, they were city champions as juniors a couple years back,” said Georgiadis.  “We have high expectations for them. It’s a very talented group.”

On their first drive, Gallagher, the 2008 TDSBAA Champion, confidently marched Leaside down the field The Lancers made three first downs before Williams punched in the ball from the five-yard line to give them an early 7-0 lead.

Leaside followed that drive with a successful onside kick.  Another long drive brought them back into the red zone, but they missed the field goal and made it 8-0.

East York’s offence got the ball back towards the end of the first quarter and running back Melad Akbari  broke loose for a 55-yard gain that brought his team over mid-field for the first time all game.

While the Goliath’s finally moved the ball, they missed a field-goal attempt from the 25-yard line. Making matters worse, Leaside’s Yann Dika-Palotoken ran the ball back to his own 48 yard line.

“He [Yann] was great for us on defence, but especially on special teams,” said Georgiadis.  “Not only does he make a great halfback, he’s can run with the ball and be a game-changer.”

The resulting possession led to another missed field goal, giving the Lancers a 9-0 lead.

With less than five minutes remaining in the first half, East York still had yet to complete a pass and had still only run for the one first down.

“We did a great job shutting them down, and preventing any big plays,” said Georgiadis.

After yet another three-and-out, the Goliaths had their punt blocked and Leaside recovered on the five-yard line.  A quick quarterback sneak by Gallagher gave the Lancers a 15-0 lead at the half.

Leaside got the ball back to start the second half and Gallagher went to work again, hitting Mitchell Kalia with 40-yard pass. The receiver fully extended to catch the ball just in front of the East York goal-line and Gallagher easily executed another sneak for his second straight touchdown, extending the lead to 22-0.

If the game didn’t seem over already, Gallagher made sure of it on his very next possession. With the ball on his own 35, the small and speedy pivot got flushed out of the pocket and back-pedaled nearly 10 yards.

However, instead of dropping to the ground, or heading out of bounds, he avoided two potential sacks, before breaking up the side lines and dodging a couple more tackles for the unlikely score.  That made it 29-0.

“Mike [Gallagher] played great,” said Georgiadis.  “His throws were accurate because he had plenty of pass protection and whenever the pocket would collapse, he got away.  He’s extremely athletic and mobile. He was able to just scramble and run his way out of trouble.”

The teams would trade touchdowns in the fourth, as the East York fans finally had something to cheer about late, however, the Lancers held on for the comfortable win.

“I was really pleased with the effort, especially considering the pressure [of Friday Night Lights],” said Georgiadis.

The Lancers avenged a heart-breaking upset loss to the Goliaths in last year’s Toronto school board semi-final and will face Lawrence Park Collegiate next week.  Meanwhile, East York has the week off to re-group.