Michael Gallagher may be small, at least for a quarterback. But whatever he lacks in size, he makes up for with his athleticism and determination.
The Grade 12 student has been a big reason why the Leaside Lancers are enjoying an unlikely, but still undefeated season, their best in more than a decade.
The Lancers, a perfect 5-0, dominated the Lawrence Park Panthers, 43-7, in the Toronto school board’s South/West region semi-final on Oct. 22. The Lancers are now on their way to the divisional finals to play the Central Tech Blues next Friday.
In the team’s last two victories, Gallagher has run for four touchdowns, thrown for two more and the offence has produced a whopping 71 points.
“We’re starting to click,” said Lancers head coach Jim Georgiadis. “I like the way [Gallagher] is spreading the ball around and utilizing all the receivers.”
While he has passed well, Gallagher has also been a force running with the ball, witness the four touchdowns rushing in the past two games.
He even doubles as the team’s punter.
“Michael’s a very good athlete,” said Georgiadis. “It’s all coming together at the right time for him.”
The coach credits Gallagher’s off-season training for his breakthrough season.
“He played summer football for the first time with the [Metro Toronto] Wildcats,” said Georgiadis. “Playing football at that level has given him more confidence. He’s shown he play with his peers at a high level.”
Georgiadis also believes the camaraderie Gallagher has developed with his teammates over several seasons is a key. The senior is in his fourth year with the team and helped guide Leaside’s junior squad to a TDSSAA championship in 2008.
“[Most of] this team has been together for awhile now,” said Georgiadis. “He’s getting a better handle of the offence, playing with guys he’s been with for over four years now.”
Georgiadis emphasized that the quarterback would not being enjoying this success if not for a solid offensive line providing outstanding pass protection in recent weeks.
“The offensive line is doing an outstanding job,” he said. “We usually give a lot of credit to the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs. They’re getting all the glory because they’re scoring all the points, but really it starts up front.”
Nevertheless, scouts from both the University of Toronto and York University were on hand for the semi-final win and Gallagher has attracted their attention.
“He’s having a great season,” says Georgiadis. “I’ve had several coaches approach me about him. I definitely can see him playing at the next level.”
The Lancers are the top seed in the South/West region despite having technically already lost a game. When is a loss not a loss? Well, Northern Knights came from behind to steal a victory from the Lancers, 8-6, on Oct. 2, only to later forfeit the win a week later.
The Knights were (4-0), but used a player who was ineligible in two of their wins, which were turned into losses.
“They were the ones who actually came forward after the fact,” said Georgiadis. “I think a kid on their team was missing a couple signatures, or something. It’s unfortunate, but we were winning that game for three quarters and probably should have won it anyway.”
Since 2007, Northern has had the best senior boys’ football team in the South/West region, advancing to the TDSSAA championship the last two years.
However, the controversial ineligibility claim led to the demise of their season. The Knights (2-2) were dropped to the third seed for the semi-finals and were surprisingly knocked off as visitors against the Central Tech Blues on Oct. 22.
Ironically, Leaside clinched its birth in the division final by dominating Lawrence Park on Northern Secondary’s home field, where the game was originally supposed to feature the Knights.